France and Portugal projected by SPI to make Euro 2016 final
The Euro 2016 semifinals begin on Wednesday. Below is a look at both of the matchups, including the Soccer Power Index (SPI) projection. (Note: SPI does not account for injuries or suspensions).
Entering the tournament, the two teams most likely to make the semifinals and win the tournament according to SPI were the two teams facing off in Marseille on Thursday: France and Germany.
France, currently the No. 2 team in SPI, is still the favorite to win it all thanks in large part to home field advantage. With that, France is projected to make the final 66 percent of the time, according to SPI.
Had this match been played at a neutral site, it would be about as close as can be, and France would be a 52 percent favorite over No. 4 Germany according to SPI.
This is Germany's sixth consecutive semifinal at a major tournament dating back to the 2006 World Cup -- the only European country ever to reach that many consecutive semifinals. France is making its first semifinal appearance at a major tournament since reaching the final at the 2006 World Cup.
France has scored 11 goals, most of any team in the tournament, and is the first team to have three different scorers with three or more goals in the same tournament: Antoine Griezmann (4), Dimitri Payet (3), Olivier Giroud (3). Scoring will be a bit tougher against Germany, as it has conceded one goal this tournament, the fewest of any team, and that came from the penalty spot.
Home advantage has helped France in major tournaments, it is unbeaten in its last 17 major tournament home games, dating back to Euro 1984 (15-2-0). France's last major tournament loss at home was at Euro 1960, the first edition of the tournament, when it lost the third-place match to Czechoslovakia.
Germany, however, has advanced in seven straight major-tournament knockout games against host nations, including 7-1 over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semis. The last host nation to eliminate Germany in a major-tournament knockout game was England in the 1966 World Cup final.
The other semifinal features No. 14 Portugal, which SPI gave the fifth-best chance to make the semifinals and win the title prior to the tournament, and Wales.
Wales was ranked No. 49 in SPI entering the tournament, the third-lowest among the teams in the field (No. 54 Albania, No. 59 Hungary). As a result, SPI gave Wales a 3.5 percent chance to make the semifinal and 0.2 percent chance to win the title before the tournament started, the third-lowest of any team.
Since then, Wales has jumped to No. 20, and though it is still an underdog, SPI gives Wales a 41 percent chance to reach the final.
Portugal and Wales will be meeting for the fourth time in their history, and the first time in a competitive match. It is only the second meeting between these two countries in the last 65 years (Portugal won a friendly match in 2000.)
This will feature a matchup of Real Madrid club teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. These two have faced each other before, but not since the 2008-09 season when Ronaldo's Manchester United beat Bale's Tottenham in all three meetings, including the League Cup Final on penalties.
For Portugal, it is playing in its fifth Euro semifinal, the most of any team to never win a European Championship title. Portugal is led by Ronaldo, who has taken 38 shots, 16 more than any other player at the tournament. Of those 38 shots, 10 have been on target, tied for second-most, trailing only Bale (13).
Wales enters the semifinals having scored 10 goals, second-most in the tournament and most ever by a country in its Euro debut. Though scoring may prove a bit more difficult without the suspended Aaron Ramsey, who leads Wales in touches, passes completed and chances created in the tournament.