Wales vs Northern Ireland by Luke
Wales surprisingly topped the Group B where they were drawn together with England, Russia and Slovakia, but the team will now be looking ot conitnue their impressive run and keep the momentum for as long as possible. Additionally, they were awarded with a bit easier opponent in the next stage, so there's no doubt that the players inside their roster do feel as favorites against Northern Irish side.
They looked especially well in the third round, when they defeated Russia with 3:0, to secure the top spot thanks to goals from Ramsey and Taylor in the first half and Bale in the repetition, as they bounced back in a best possible way after a narrow 2:1 defeat to English side in last moments of the second's round game. That way they ended with a victory over Slovakia and Russia and a defeat to England, ending with a point more than England and two points more than Slovakia.
Their manager Chris Coleman has no injury worries ahead this game. He could name the same starting lineup that secured 3:0 victory over Russia on Monday, which would see Sam Vokes keeping his position in attack. Vokes and Davies are both one booking away from suspension, but that doesn't mean much now. Wales should be playing in 3-4-3 formation with Vokes as striker, Bale and Ramsey on the wings.
It needs to be said that Northern Ireland was somewhat lucky to progress to the next stage, since the team comes into it after one victory and two defeats. They weren't specially good in their group opener against Polish side, when the team lost with a narrow 1:0 result, but they showed great fighting spirit in the second round when the Irish side won over Ukraine 2:0, which proved to be enough for the knockout stage.
They secured the victory in that game in the second half, thanks to goals from McAuley and McGinn, with the team looking really patient and waiting to hit the opponent on the break. At the same time, these two goals are the only goals scored for Northern Irish side for now, while the team suffered narrow 1:0 defeat against Germany in the third round, without threatening much overall. On contrary, fair result would be bigger margin victory for the Germans.
Northern Ireland, on the other side, should be playing in their usual defensive 4-5-1 formation with Washington as alone striker. Their manager Michael O'Neill should also keep the same squad that lost to Germans earlier this weekend, with Kyle Lafferty probably settling for a place on the bench once more. Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Jamie Ward and Stuart Dallas are all one booking away from suspension.
- Wales are undefeated in their last 5 matches against N.Ireland in all competitions.
Teams are probably not that different regarding quality, but Wales have shown much more during this tournament and has star players that can decided the game out of nowhere. Having that in mind, I still believe taking Wales is a valuable choice here.