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Euro 2016 Quarter-Final: Wales vs Belgium Preview
Find out who our soccer scribe is backing to win Friday's Euro 2016 quarter-final tie between Wales and Belgium.
Wales will take on Belgium in Lille on Friday night in the quarter-finals of the European Championship. These teams were pitted in the same group in qualifying for the tournament with Chris Coleman’s side taking four points from the Red Devils, who failed to score against the Welsh across 180-minutes.
Over the course of both games, Belgium dominated proceedings, but struggled to produce real chances against a resolute five-man defence, and were punished in Cardiff for their creative failings.
In Lille on Friday, Belgium will get the opportunity to put what they see as an injustice right and they enter the clash firm favourites.
Euro 2016 Quarter-Final | Stade Pierre-Mauroy | Friday 1 July | 21:00
Wales 42/10 | Draw 24/10 | Belgium 15/20
Wales reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 for the first time with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland as Gareth Bale showed his quality with a teasing cross turned into his own net by Gareth McAuley.
Coleman’s side had dominated possession and spent most of the second half on the front foot, but were unable to break down a resilient Irish rearguard until Bale produced the only moment of genuine class in the match after 75 minutes.
Wales have won three of their four games played in Euro 2016. Victory over Slovakia, 2-1, in the opening game followed with 2-1 defeat to England, courtesy of an injury-time goal from Daniel Sturridge. But Wales bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win over Russia before kicking out Northern Ireland.
The Dragons will hope to continue making history in the tournament and book their place in the semi-finals, but they’ll face a daunting test against Europe’s No.1 ranked side. Coleman’s team have looked solid defensively, keeping clean sheets in their last two games, but it will be difficult to nullify the threat of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku.
Wales must wait to see if captain Ashley Williams is fit for Friday after he suffered a shoulder injury against Northern Ireland. He is set to find out in the week if the injury is simply bruising or ligament or muscle damage. If he is ruled out for Friday’s game against Belgium, West Ham defender James Collins is likely to replace him in the starting line-up with either Bale or former skipper Aaron Ramsey taking the captain’s armband.
Bale has been superb for Wales and is currently joint top scorer in the tournament with three goals. He has scored 10 and created two of Wales’s last 16 competitive goals, which tells you everything about the influence he has for them.
Belgium set up a quarter-final date with Wales by beating Hungary 4-0 in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. Hazard produced an inspired performance, scoring a superb solo goal and making another for Michy Batshuayi while Toby Alderweireld and Carrasco were also on target in an impressive display.
Marc Wilmots' team will now head to Lille to take on Wales, with the winner of that tie facing either Poland or Portugal in the semi-finals.
The Red Devils have recovered well from their 2-1 defeat to Italy in their opening match. Wilmots' side ousted the Republic of Ireland, 3-0, courtesy of a brace from Lukaku. They needed a stunning strike from Radja Nainggolan to get past Sweden, but they were at their free-flowing best against Hungary.
There was evidence of the brilliant, multi-talented Belgium team that many feel are capable of becoming European champions. Everything that was good about Wilmots' side came through their captain, Hazard. He was chief orchestrator, fleet-footed winger and driving midfielder all in one. He showed flashes of brilliance, and when he's in the mood, few defences can live with his movement, pace and blurring array of tricks.
Belgium are blessed with an influx of attacking talent that are irresistible to watch going forward and capable of dispatching any team with ease when at their best. Hazard and De Bruyne will pull the strings in midfield while Lukaku’s presence could cause havoc in Wales’ backline.
It should be a tight affair but Belgium should have too much quality for Wales. The Red Devils have so many brilliant players capable of creating an instant difference. Take Belgium to win at 15/20.