British Nations seem to be coming and going through Europe like a revolving door at this moment in time and Wales will be hoping to avoid a Belgian veto in the second quarter finals. having already made it here and also achieved the marker of being the leading home Nation at this tournament, there is nothing for Chris Coleman’s side to fear, and this is especially true given that they’ve taken four points from the Belgians in qualifying.
Belgium themselves started the tournament i the worst possible fashion against Italy but that form looks better by the day given what Italy have done since and a confidence boosting win against Ireland was backed up by a functional success against Sweden to end the group stages on a high.
Those successes hinted that things were getting better for Marc Wilmots – now suddenly not so under fire – but it was their performance against Hungary that really underlined their title credentials. From the first minute they were all over the Hungarians with Kevin De Bryne and especially Eden Hazard, whose influence would grow as the game went on, at their best in coordination with De Bruyne lucky not to have scored at least once the opening 20 minutes.
Lukaku linked superbly with the midfield duo whilst Dries Mertens’ mountain load of work kept Hungarian defenders busy when needs be and whilst the underdogs rallied – and were on top for good periods – a 4-0 scoreline does not give a misleading impression about the margin between the two sides.
Wales have repeated their qualifying strategy through the tournament and it has worked perfectly for Chris Coleman’s side. They did enough to beat Slovakia in their opening game and would have taken a point from their clash with England had they just lasted 10 more seconds; A more expansive game plan was used to easily dispatch a dreadful Russia side to top the group.
Against Northern Ireland they were forced to take the initiative against a notoriously difficult side to break down, with the Northern Irish managing to shade much of the exchanges, but they did have the best chances of the match and a goal disallowed early; Victory was deserved, however tight. They will have to improve to match up against the Belgians but are likely to find far more space for the likes of Allen, Voakes/Robson Kanu and especially Gareth Bale against a side that will be emboldened by their extremely strong start and finish to the Round of 15.
They will also be encouraged by the strong periods of pressure that Hungary did manage to string together during the second half, with Courtois forced into several important saves after half time too, and they will consider themselves more solid organizationally than Hungary, as a 1-0 victory at Cardiff and a 0-0 draw in Brussels during qualifying would attest to.
This Belgian side would appear to be in better form and there are plenty of people who will heartily take advantage of the 8/11 offered that they reverse recent form and book a semi-final place. That gap looks short though given the knowledge that Coleman’s men have of their opponents. The favourites seem to have hit form though, and they will fancy their chances of breaking Welsh resolve, perhaps doing so first which would force the underdogs to take the initiative. Regardless, there is the potential for goals here and over 2.5 looks competitive at 6/4.
Belgium haven’t conceded in their last three, and Wales haven’t conceded before 56th minute at the tournament, it could be worth taking a punt on the goals coming later and there is 5/1 on 3 or more second half goals, a tempting proposition.
2 pts Over 2.5 Goals (6/4 Hills)
1 pt Over 2.5 goals in Second Half (5/1 general)