WALES aim for a place in the semi-finals of Euro 2016 on Friday when they take on Belgium. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) shares his thoughts.
Wales v Belgium | Friday 20:00 | BBC One
Wales? Still in a major tournament in July? Amazing isn’t it! Surely this can’t continue? Well, I wouldn’t rule it out. The Welsh look underrated at the odds but I’ll take another betting angle.
Chris Coleman’s men come into this match having won three of their four matches in the competition. The other game was a last minute loss to England. They have every right to feel confident in Lille.
While they’re a far more limited side to Belgium their team spirit is without question. This outfit look united and the cringey hash-tags are most definitely authentic.
The England loss must have been a gutting blow. 1-0 up at half-time, to suffer a last minute defeat must have rocked the camp. Their next game against Russia had the potential to unravel them but to win 3-0 was an outstanding triumph.
Their Last 16 game against Northern Ireland was hardly a classic but the quality of Gareth Bale was enough to separate the sides and put the Welsh into the Quarter-Finals.
Belgium’s obituary’s were being penned after their opening game against Italy on Day 4 of the tournament. A meek 2-0 defeat at the hands of an Italian side that had been written off looked a bad one and rumours of internal angst from the Belgian camp quickly emerged. Marc Wilmot’s side drifted to 18/1.
Since then though the side have thrown a middle finger towards the doubters with three wins out of three. Ireland were savaged 3-0 in the second half two weeks ago, Sweden were put to sleep in their final group game and Hungary were overwhelmed 4-0 in the Last 16.
The side (replete with superstar players) seem to have gelled and it must be daunting for Wales having to face them on the back of those three wins.
While the form of the Welsh wins don’t really stand up, perhaps you can the say the same for Belgium? Ireland were particularly poor on the day the sides met, Sweden have been gash all tournament and while Hungary had a good tournament they weren’t exactly world beaters.
Belgium should find it harder to get past Wales than they did against their previous opponents. Coleman’s side conceded just four goals in qualifying (only three sides posted a better figure) and they’ve kept two clean sheets in France.
Let’s not forget these sides met in qualifying and it was the Welsh who came out on top with a win in their homeland and a draw in Brussels. Just one goal was scored in those two fixtures and I think we’ll see something similar here.
Belgium may be the top scorers in the competition but seven of their eight goals came against Ireland and Hungary. Wales may have scored in every game but this looks a step up on what they’ve played so far and they’re bound to be looking to keep it tight. Fit and able Ashley Williams is sure to play a pivotal role.
Five of the seven World Cup knockout matches from the Quarter-Finals went Under 2.5 Goals in 2014 and in Euro 2012 it was four out of seven.
This wretched tournament has already provided a plethora of low-scoring games and with the stakes so high I think we’ll see another one here. Under 2.5 Goals is plenty short so I’ll back Under 2 Goals on Bet365‘s Total Goal Asian line at 2.15. If exactly two are scored I get my stake refunded.
Wales v Belgium – Under 2 Goals Asian Line (2.15 Bet365)