Wales vs Belgium: Preview and Prediction￼
Though Wales might have realized a dream recently in the form of qualification to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, if we are to specifically talk about this competition, they have been rather disappointing. Rob Page’s men have lost both of their first two matches and are languishing at the bottom of the table in their group.
On the other hand, Belgium’s journey so far has surprisingly been a tale of striking contrasts. They started their campaign with a humbling 4-1 defeat against the Netherlands, but then made up for it with a sensational 6-1 triumph against Poland in their last fixture.
Keeping the UEFA Nations League out of the equation, Wales’ current form is rather impressive. They have lost only two of their last 12 encounters – both of them coming in this competition against Poland and the Netherlands.
Besides that, the Dragons won five of those games, beating Belarus twice and Estonia, Austria and Ukraine on one occasion each. They also played out five draws – twice against the Czech Republic, and once each against Finland, Estonia and Belgium.
Interestingly, though they were on fire in their last match, Belgium’s recent form does not do justice to their incredible squad strength. In their last 12 matches, Belgium has lost four matches – twice against Italy and once each against France and Netherlands.
They also drew a couple of games – one of them coming against Wales itself, with the other coming against the Republic of Ireland. However, all of that being said, the Red Devils also have won six of those matches – two of them against Estonia, and the rest against the Czech Republic, Belarus, Burkina Faso and Poland.
Head to Head Record
The head-to-head statistics between these two teams are a lot more neck-and-neck than one might assume. While Belgium holds the upper hand with six wins over Wales, the Dragons have also emerged victoriously on five occasions, with four matches ending in stalemates.
The last meeting between these two teams, which was in the qualifying stages of the upcoming FIFA World Cup, produced one such stalemate. Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring for Roberto Martinez’s team, but Kieffer Moore secured a point for Page’s men.
Page has two players on the injured list, and both of them happen to be goalkeepers – Wayne Hennesey and Danny Ward. Hence, third-choice goalkeeper Adam Davies is likely to be entrusted with the role of keeping the Belgian attackers at bay.
However, on the flip side, many of Wales’ star players are likely to be back in the starting Xi after being rested for the last match. In defense, Neco Williams and Ethan Ampadu are likely to replace Connor Roberts and Chris Mepham respectively, whilst in midfield, Jonny Williams could be preferred ahead of Dylan Levitt and Aaron Ramsey could come in place of Harry Wilson. Most importantly, Gareth Bale could be reintegrated into the starting XI at the expense of Brennan Johnson.
On the contrary, Martinez fielded a nearly full-strength team against Poland and he could rest some of his key players in this match. In defense, 35-year-old Jan Vertonghen could be handed some respite by replacing him with Dedryck Boyata.
Youri Tielemans could be replaced by Hans Vanaken in the middle of the park, whilst we could see a completely new-look front three. De Bruyne, Michy Batshuayi and Eden Hazard could make way for Leandro Trossard, Dries Mertens and Thorgan Hazard respectively.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Wales (5-3-2): Adam Davies; Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu, Joe Rodon, Ben Davies, Rhys Norrington-Davies; Jonny Williams, Joe Morrell, Aaron Ramsey; Gareth Bale, Daniel James.
Belgium (3-4-3): Simon Mignolet; Leander Dendoncker, Toby Alderwiereld, Dedryck Boyata; Timothy Castagne, Alex Witsel, Hans Vanaken, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco; Leandro Trossard, Dries Mertens, Thorgan Hazard.
Head-to-head records might hint at a close encounter, but after the brand of football they played against Poland, Belgium will certainly take some stopping. Hence, we have predicted Martinez’s team to secure all three points in this match.