Hazard Warning for Wales
Wales’ fairy tale Euro 2016 reaches its next stage on Friday, when they take on Belgium in Lille in the quarter final. The tournament has already been deemed as a success for the Welshmen after topping the group; reaching the quarter final and seeing England lose in embarrassing fashion in the round of 16. Belgium have got better since their disappointing opening game against Italy and they’re very much favourites for Friday night’s game.
The Welsh fans have been in fine voice throughout the tournament so far, with most of their praise going in the direction of their one world class star, Gareth Bale. Indeed, it was a piece of magic by Bale in the round of 16 that has got them to this stage of the tournament so far. His whipped in cross left Gareth McAuley with little other option but to stick it into the back of his own net, and it was that which separated the teams at the final whistle. Ashley Williams left the field against Northern Ireland with a shoulder injury, but it seems inevitable that he’ll be starting against Belgium. He won’t want to miss the game, and he’ll play regardless of what physical condition he’s in. In contrast to the England team, Chris Coleman has set his side up in an organised fashion and his game plan is clear. It is simply defend the ball, and then give it to Gareth Bale. Although a limited plan, it’s proved effective in the tournament so far. With the exception of the game against Northern Ireland, Wales have been the underdog in every game. Coleman has said that he prefers it this way, and they’ll be the underdog again in this quarter final.
Belgium finally hit their straps in the tournament, with a 4-0 demolition of Hungary in the round of 16. Eden Hazard has regained the form that saw him named player of the year for Chelsea in 2015, which so desperately eluded him last season. Alongside Hazard was Kevin de Bruyne, and the two of them caused havoc on a far inferior Hungarian defence. With the exception of Bale, the Belgian players are far superior to the Welsh; however manager Marc Wilmots has struggled to get his team to gel, although the last 16 game could be the turning point for the Belgians.
Will Welsh Dragons’ Roar?
The smart money says no, unsurprisingly given the quality in their side, Belgium are overwhelming favourites to reach the semi-finals, with NetBet pricing them at 20/27 to win in 90 minutes. The Welsh are outsiders at 9/2, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility that they could triumph in this match. If Wales are to win however, they’ll be reliant on Bale to score; he’s backed at 11/4 to do so.
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