Aaron Ramsey calls on Wales to secure ‘massive’ home advantage for World Cup play-offs

The Dragons need a point against Belgium on Tuesday to finish second in their qualifying group

Phil Blanche
Monday 15 November 2021 16:01
Aaron Ramsey is targeting home advantage for Wales in the World Cup play-offs (David Davies/PA)
Aaron Ramsey is targeting home advantage for Wales in the World Cup play-offs (David Davies/PA)

Aaron Ramsey admits home advantage in the World Cup play-offs would be “massive” for Wales.

The Dragons head into their final qualifier against Belgium on Tuesday guaranteed of a play-off spot in March.

Wales need at least a point against the world’s top-ranked side in Cardiff to ensure finishing above the Czech Republic in second and boosting hopes of securing a semi-final home tie in the play-offs.

“That was our target, to finish second in our group, that hasn’t changed,” said Juventus midfielder Ramsey, who netted twice in Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Belarus to move into sixth place on Wales’ all-time scoring list.

“If we manage to get a result on Tuesday, we will have achieved it. That home tie is going to be massive, but there are great teams in that pot who we could potentially draw.

“We have just got to concentrate on this game and try to finish the job off correctly, then worry about whatever is to come in the future.

“We want to finish second in the group so hopefully we can do that.”

After going 58 years without playing at a major tournament, Wales have qualified for the last two European Championships – reaching the semi-finals in 2016 and the round of 16 last summer.

But time is ticking on whether the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ can make it to a World Cup.

Skipper Gareth Bale – who will definitely not start against Belgium because of injury after winning his 100th cap against Belarus – Joe Allen and Ramsey will all be in their mid-thirties by the time the 2026 World Cup finals come around.

“Hopefully there will be a couple of games in March,” said Ramsey, who is set to wear the armband in Bale’s absence. “They’re going to be huge games for us. To qualify for a World Cup, these opportunities won’t come along very often.

“It might be the last time we have an opportunity as good as this. We’ll deal with that when we come to it, right now have to focus on finishing the job off against Belgium.”

While Wales are set to be without Bale and the suspended Ethan Ampadu, Roberto Martinez’s Belgium have been hit by a raft of injuries and withdrawals.

Jeremy Doku, Michy Batshuayi, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Youri Tielemans all missed the 3-1 win over Estonia on Saturday.

The victory guaranteed Belgium top spot in Group E and qualification for a fifth major tournament at Qatar 2022.

Real Madrid pair Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have now been ruled out of the trip to Cardiff.

Ramsey added: “Those players (Hazard and Courtois) are playing for one of the biggest teams in the world. It might help us out a little bit, but they have other players who are full of quality and can produce something themselves.

“We can’t take them lightly because they have such strength in depth. We’re going to have to be right at it from the first whistle.”

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