Wales vs Belgium: Talking points ahead of World Cup qualifier

Wales are hoping to secure home advantage in the World Cup play-offs

Phil Blanche
Monday 15 November 2021 15:12
Wales’ Gareth Bale will not start the match against Belgium (Bradley Collyer/PA).
Wales’ Gareth Bale will not start the match against Belgium (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Wales conclude their World Cup qualifying campaign against Belgium in Cardiff on Tuesday.

A positive result for Wales could secure them a home semi-final in the World Cup play-offs in March.

Here, we look at the main talking points surrounding the Cardiff City Stadium clash.

Bale blow

Wales captain Gareth Bale will not start the World Cup qualifier with Belgium (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Gareth Bale was the centre of attention in Wales’ 5-1 win over Belarus on Saturday. The Real Madrid forward became only the second Welshman to reach the 100-cap milestone, having spent two months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Bale came off at half-time and said later that it was always the plan to play 45 minutes. But Wales boss Robert Page has confirmed that Bale will not start against Belgium and might not be risked at all from the bench.

Moore boost

Kieffer Moore has an impressive scoring record for Wales (PA)

Kieffer Moore’s return is a massive plus for Wales. The Cardiff target man was banned for the Belarus game but has scored more Wales goals (seven) than anyone since making his debut in September 2019. Page named Moore on the bench for the away fixture in March, preferring to utilise quicker players and was rewarded with a sublime Harry Wilson opener. But the 6ft 5in Moore is capable of inflicting serious aerial damage on a Belgian defence weakened by injuries.

Suspension concerns

Aaron Ramsey is among seven Wales players one booking away from missing the World Cup play-off semi-final through suspension (PA)

Ethan Ampadu is banned and Wales will be walking a disciplinary tightrope against Belgium. No fewer than seven players – Aaron Ramsey, Chris Gunter, Wilson, Joe Allen, Joe Morrell, James Lawrence and Sorba Thomas – are one booking away from suspension and missing the play-off semi-final in March. As it stands, yellow cards are carried into the play-offs and Wales have suffered this way in big games before. Ramsey and Ben Davies both missed the Euro 2016 semi-final against Portugal after picking up two bookings in the tournament.

Belgium reshuffle

Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard has joined a lengthy list of Belgian absentees in Cardiff (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Belgium have been hit hard by injuries in their final World Cup qualifying camp. Jeremy Doku, Michy Batshuayi, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Youri Tielemans all missed out for one reason or another. Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils still got the job done by beating Estonia 3-1 on Saturday to qualify for a fifth successive major tournament. But no Eden Hazard, Jason Denayer and Thibaut Courtois in Cardiff means Martinez must shuffle the pack again.

Special memories

Wales and Belgium have regularly gone head to head in recent times. This will be their seventh meeting in the last decade with the score even – two wins apiece and two draws. Wales’ wins came in Euro 2016 qualification and the quarter-final of that tournament itself, 3-1 in Lille. Bale was the match-winner in the June 2015 qualifier on an electric night at the Cardiff City Stadium, latching on to a Belgian mistake to superbly slide the ball past Courtois.

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