A huge game for Wales on Friday night. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) previews their match against Belgium for us.
Wales v Belgium | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports 5
Halfway through their Euro 2016 campaign and Wales find themselves in a very strong position. Unbeaten in five matches, three of those wins and sitting second in Group B. In front of them lies a massive opportunity to qualify for next summer’s tournament.
Topping the group are their opponents on Saturday, Belgium. In many ways the most progressive side in world football this decade. A cursory glance at the FIFA World Rankings proves that – they sit in the No.2 position.
Amazing achievement for sure, but I’m not sure that feels right. They were knocked out in the Quarter-Finals of last year’s World Cup and this campaign hasn’t been flawless. They dropped points at home to Wales in November and before that had failed to win in Bosnia (a place where Cyprus had taken all three points the previous month).
In 2015 they’ve been a lot more ruthless, disposing of Cyprus 5-0 before wins in Israel and France. The latter was a friendly last week where Belgium tore the French apart before succumbing to two late goals by their hosts.
As for Wales, well they’ve always been an erratic side, capable of being in the hunt for qualification whilst also trying to avoid finishing bottom of their group. They lost six of their 10 matches in World Cup 2014 qualification and actually started that competition in the bottom pot when the draw was made.
At the moment though the vibes are strong. A rich seam of quality has found it’s way into this side headed up mainly by the talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. The future looks bright again.
To be fair their opening three results in this group were nothing to write home about. They almost dropped points in Andorra, failed to beat Bosnia at home and edged past Cyprus in Wales. Since then though there’s been a big improvement, a draw in Belgium was secured in November before a stunning 3-0 win in Israel three months ago.
Belief in the camp must be high, the country is bouncing and odds of 17/4 certainly catch the eye. Yet I can’t have it I’m afraid. I get the feeling were expecting too much from Wales, a side beaten by Macedonia and hammered by Serbia less than two years ago under the same manager. And yes, it’s just a few months from those dodgy displays against Andorra and Bosnia.
Belgium seem to be like a fast car at the moment, just moving and cruising up the gears slowly before hitting peak speed. Like many nations they suffered a World Cup hangover but now there’s a Euros to qualify and maximum speed is on the radar.
I’m not going to back them to win at 4/5 as I’m loathe to play at odds on, so instead I’ll back them -1 on the Asian Handicap at a very decent 6/4 with Paddy Power. A two or more goal win and I get paid out, a one goal win and my stake is returned. Come on, you must know how it works by now.
Wales v Belgium – Belgium -1 Asian Handicap (6/4 Paddy Power)
Fancy a hugely enhanced treble price on these three European giants.