Having already been drawn together in qualifying for Euro 2016, Wales and Belgium meet again in much more different circumstances at the final showpiece, looking to book their place in the closing stages of the competition. Both teams have shown great form in their last couple of matches and we are in for an exciting match in Lille.
Welsh Dragon finished behind Belgium as runners-up during the qualification process and Chris Coleman are heading into another clash with the Red Devils without fear as they have not lost in three attempts against their upcoming opponents, who are ranked second in the world by FIFA. Wales national team has exceeded expectations and is heading into their quarter-final clash with Belgium with less pressure on their back which can be their main advantage. Once again, Chris Coleman will rely on the attacking force of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, who has been in superb form at the 2016 European Championship. Bale scored in every group game at the tournament, but failed to do so in the last 16 tie against Northern Ireland when Welsh won ugly – as Chris Coleman said – to fulfil the objective of reaching the quarters with McAuley’s own goal putting Welsh through. Gareth Bale still made a major contribution to his team’s win and will be expected to lead the way once again. Welsh team is enjoying in their journey having returned to the major scene after more than 50 years and every further step of the way is additional prize for the charismatic side.
Chris Coleman is not expected to make big changes to the team which faced Northern Ireland. Robson-Kanu could be restored upfront alongside Gareth Bale having started on the bench against Irish with Vokes being named in the starting line-up.
Welsh feared for fitness of Ashley Williams who collided with teammate James Collins on Saturday and injured his shoulder, but the experienced defender is ready to start.
Belgians have grown into the tournament despite a few disjointed displays early on. Red Devils were in full force against Hungary in the round of last 16 beating the Magyar team 4-0. Eden Hazard was particularly impressive for Marc Wilmots’ side as Chelsea star scored and assisted in a game that was his best performance at the 2016 European Championship in France. Belgium are expecting huge support from the stands as Lille stadium is just 100km from the Belgian border and plenty of supporters and fans are expected to create a home-like atmosphere for the Red Devils. Belgians are encouraged by their impressive display against Hungary and are beginning to feel rather confident that they will be able to emulate their 1980 feat of reaching the Euro final, when they lost to West Germany. However, Marc Wilmots’ side will be cautious heading into the duel with Welsh as they are winless against Bale and co. in last three occasions. Red Devils will need to continue the same level of performances if they are to knock resilient Welsh out of the tournament.
Marc Wilmots will be forced to make a change in his back line as Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen has picked up a yellow card against Hungary and will be forced to sit through this match.
Not many other changes are expected with Atletico Madrid forward Yannick Ferreira Carrasco knocking on the door after another inspiring cameo appearance when he bagged the fourth goal for Belgium against Magyar team.
Key Factors to Consider
- Welsh have gone 206 minutes without conceding against Belgium
- Wales are taking part in their first Euro since 1958
- Belgium are aiming to repeat 1980 heroics when they played Euro final
- Eden Hazard has managed 3 assists and is leading the way at the tournament
- Gareth Bale scored a goal in each of the group games
Wales have a good record against Belgium as they are unbeaten in last three meetings with Red Devils. Gareth Bale and his teammates are keen on extending the positive run, but Belgium are showing clear signs of improvement and Chris Coleman’s team will need to be at their best in order to win. We have seen a fair share of surprises at the Euro 2016 so far and Welsh are more than capable to pull off another one.