Game of the Day: Belgium vs. Wales, Lille, 20:00
Wales is proof that with a little bit of team spirit and one world class player that relative success is more than achievable in an international football tournament. And in Gareth Bale, Wales have a player that accepts the spotlight whilst not forgetting to mention the operators off stage.
Welsh performances, England game aside, have been impressive, with the 3-0 demolition of Russia by far the best for Chris Coleman. Whilst the first two games seemed dominated by Bale, against Russia, it was a game won by the squad as a whole as Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Joe Ledley dominated the midfield. Neil Taylor and Chris Gunter dominated the flanks, allowed by an Ashley Williams led defensive line unhampered by a simply awful Russian side. It was attacking, incisive football.
It’s hard to judge the Welsh after their 1-0 defeat against Northern Ireland. In an emotionally charged British derby, it was a game about keeping your heads and in Wales’s case, of breaking down Michael O’Neill’s well drilled defence. Whilst it took an own goal to break the deadlock, Wales never seemed to panic and remained calm. Such calmness could prove key going into their first ever quarter final appearance.
Belgium are however a very different beast. It seemed that Belgium finally arrived at the party against Hungary, producing one of the stand out performances this far. The talent in this Belgian squad appears almost limitless when they play well. Eden Hazard, when not playing well, can drift around the pitch, anonymous and ineffective. Against Hungary in the Round of 16, it seemed that Hazard wanted to play football.Embed from Getty Images
His goal was a lovely worked move and exemplified Hazard’s ability on the ball, his close control, his directness, his pace. It was the Hazard of last season, feared by opposition defenders and loved by every Chelsea fan and their dog. If Hazard has returned to form, then for Wales a hard task as just been made that much tougher.
This Wales side know how to beat Belgium. In qualifying, Wales were unbeaten against De Rode Duivels, winning one and pulling off a backs against the wall draw in Belgium to escape with 4pts from two games against Marc Wilmots side and Chris Coleman will fancy his chances once more as his Welsh side continues to relish their time in France.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog