Portugal tipped to edge out Germany

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Portugal’s top players have had more than a week of rest and practice whereas Germany’s last played on Monday, meaning they have had just two days of recuperation.

The reason for this is that Portugal made sure of qualification by winning their first two matches in style against Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was then able to rest his most important players for their irrelevant final group match on Sunday against Switzerland, which Portugal lost 2-0.

Germany, who finished as the runners-up to Croatia in Group B, looked good in their first match, beating Poland 2-0, but were then less than their best in losing 1-0 to Croatia.

That left German coach Joachim Loew having to field his first-choice XI against Austria on Monday to ensure progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. Germany beat the world’s 92nd-ranked team 1-0 in a hard-fought match.

Germany are now counting the cost of Monday night’s exertions.

Reuters reports that their top scorer, Lukas Podolski, has a calf injury and that Torsten Frings has a broken a rib. Both are fighting to be fit in time for the match against Portugal at St Jakob Park in Basel.

On the upside for Germany, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who missed the Austria game through suspension, will be available. He scored twice in Germany’s 3-1 victory over Portugal in the play-off for third place at the 2006 World Cup.

Portugal have no injury problems and Scolari is likely to start with the same players who did so well in their first two matches.

The two sides’ recent performances also point to Portugal having the edge. The match statistics show that Germany were only slightly stronger than Austria, who are ranked 87 places below them. That is poor reflection on Germany’s form at the moment.

The Portugal side that beat the Czech Republic – Portugal’s loss to Switzerland is ignored here because the composition of the team was so different – was superior in every aspect of play, leading total shots 18 to 12 and ball possession 59 percent to 41 percent.

Considering that the Czechs are ranked sixth, one place above Germany, Portugal appear to have a good chance of dominating this match, too.

Supporting the case for Portugal is that they have not lost to Germany at the European championships. At Euro 2000 they won 3-0 and in 1984 they drew 0-0.

In all, Portugal have played seven matches against a united Germany. The head-to-head record is 3-1 to Germany with three draws. Germany won their most recent match 3-1, as mentioned, but the previous match was Portugal’s 3-0 win at Euro 2000.

Portugal’s 2-0 defeat by Switzerland on Sunday was only the second time in 22 matches they have failed to score – they also drew a blank in a 0-0 draw at home to Finland in November last year in qualifying for Euro 2008. Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Germany

Match result after 90 minutes 15/10 Portugal 22/10 Draw 22/10 Germany

To progress to the semi-finals 15/20 Portugal 11/10 Germany

BETTING VERDICT Small-to-medium-sized bet on Portugal at 15/10.

Most factors suggest that Portugal can win this match in normal time, so they appear to offer decent betting value at 15/10.

It is a concern that Portugal lost to Switzerland because a loss is never good for team spirit, no matter how irrelevant the match.

Also, the fact that Portugal’s first-choice players have not played a match for eight days may mean they are not as battle-hardened as their German counterparts.

However, they are not likely to be under-prepared, or over-confident, for a match of this importance. If anything, their time off will have left them fresher and hungrier for victory.

Portugal have reached the semi-finals in both of their most recent major tournaments, and they have every chance of doing so again on Thursday.

This article first appeared on sports betting news site Sportingweb (www.sportingweb.co.za).

Listen to Sportingweb’s Saturday morning radio show for a betting update on Euro 2008 and all the weekend’s sport. The show starts at 07:30 and runs to 08:00 on 1485AM Radio Today, which is also available on channel 169 of the DSTV audio bouquet!

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