Friday, 1 July 2016

Wales vs Belgium Euro 2016 Football Match Preview And Prediction - July 2, 2016

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Wales looked excellent in their final group game as they systematically dismantled a slow Russian defence to win 3-0 and top the group ahead of an England side that had just beaten them.

However, they looked like a different team when they went up against Northern Ireland. The underdogs’ defensive work thwarted all attempts at an attack from Wales, and there was just a single shot on target from Gareth Bale and company. This came from a trademark free kick from the Real Madrid winger, which was duly saved by Michael McGovern.

Northern Ireland were obviously set up to stifle the Wales attack with quick and intense pressing, but their lack of a cutting edge up front came back to haunt them as Bale found some space on the left to whip in a dangerous ball. Gareth McAuley could do nothing but stick a leg out towards it, which then saw the ball nestle in the back of his own net with 15 minutes to go.

One of Wales’ major criticisms has been their inability to break down organised defensive outfits, and they struggled massively here. They have won three of their four matches at the Euros now though, and they will feel confident that they will be able to find more space in the final third against a Belgium side who are very attack minded.

Belgium’s golden generation finally showed up on Sunday as they ended Hungary’s excellent run in the competition. The Hungarians remained an attacking threat and refused to go out with a frustrating defensive display, and this played right into Belgium’s hands.

A 10th minute opener from the head of Toby Alderweireld forced Hungary to come at them even more, which opened up a tremendous amount of space for the excellent Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Hungary’s 40 year old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly was on top form as he kept Belgium at bay, but the 78th minute saw substitute Michy Batshuayi score a close range goal with almost his first touch of the game. Hazard got a deserved 3rd goal under two minutes later as the Chelsea man cut inside from the left, ghosted past two defenders and slotted it home. Another substitute, Yannick Carrasco, handed out the killer blow to Hungary when he made it 4-0 in injury time.

It was a valiant effort from a very impressive Hungary side, but the finally in form Belgium side were simply too good for them to handle. The golden generation of European football finally seem to be transferring some of their club form into international results, and any side who come up against them should be worried after Sunday’s performance.

Belgium’s style of play does leave a lot of space to get at their defenders though, and without the suspended Thomas Vermaelen it is very possible that Wales will have some luck against their back line on the counter attack. Wales could be without captain and centre back Ashley Williams as well though, who is a key figure in their defensive strategy.

The absence of these two key centre backs should make for a more open game, with Belgium expected to do the majority of pressing but the pace of Hal Robson-Kanu and Gareth Bale will provide a really threatening counter attacking option.

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