Wales vs Belgium

Euro 2016 carries on with its second quarter final: Wales facing Belgium in Lille.

History

  • This is the first ever European championships for Wales. In their only World Cup (1958), they made the quarter finals
  • Belgium haven’t made it out of the group stage on their last two visits to the tournament. They were runner ups in 1980, when it was an 8-team championship

Road to the quarterfinals

  • Wales looked impressive in two of their group stage matches, with wins over Slovakia and Russia. They parked the bus against England, yet still managed to take a lead, which didn’t last, losing in stoppage time. They beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in the round of 16
  • Belgium started out poorly, losing 2-0 to Italy and looking bad. Things looked better afterwards: Beating Ireland 3-0 and Sweden 1-0. They exploded in a fun filled match against Hungary in the round of 16, winning 4-0

Down to business

There two teams played each other twice in the qualifiers, with Wales finishing behind Belgium in the group. However, they drew in Brussels and Wales won 1-0 in Cardiff, with Gareth Bale scoring the goal. That was just over a year ago. So what’s changed? Not a lot. Belgium are still the more talented team, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and many many others swarming the Premier League combining for a lethal strikeforce. However, there is a problem: The midfield, except for Radja Nainggolan, isn’t very good at stopping counter attacks, which is wonderful news for Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen. Their defense is also in trouble, with Jan Vertonghen out for good. Belgium did thrash Hungary, but that match wasn’t a 4-0 kind of game – it was much closer, and Belgium were slightly lucky to take a late 2-0 lead, instead of it being 1-1 much earlier.

For Wales, the key will be how well Ashley Williams, Allen and Joe Ledley preform. They’re likely to be waiting in the back for the chance to unleash Bale and Ramsey on the Belgians, who struggle in coping with counter attacks and closing down midfields. That is what happens when the manager doesn’t really believe in tactics. If the trio are capable of making life difficult for the Belgians (scoring 8 goals in their last three matches), they should give Bale the opportunities to cause an upset. This is Belgium’s match to lose, but Wales are a very difficult team to cope with, especially when the defensive midfield isn’t built to stop their surges forward.

Image: Source