Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Belgium vs Wales

During the 2010 World Cup, Holland took the title of wild card contenders. This time round, it is Belgium. With the current squad touted by many as their country’s golden generation, the pressure is on the team, and indeed their manager, to show the world they won’t leave a single stone unturned on their way to glory. The first part is already done, with qualification assured in style.

Manager Marc Wilmots, however, is understandably keeping his head down, having said: “We can only talk about a golden generation once these players have made some good results and won some trophies.” Such humility is commendable, especially if he is masterminding one of the most entertaining team evolutions in modern football.

Of course, the Belgian FA will want him to stay. Belgium have cruised through qualification like wildfire and the manager certainly deserves the credit. But it appears Wilmots is playing the courting game. “Contract talks are not in order now. I want to concentrate fully on the next two qualification matches”, he said.

With the world, and indeed his employers, awaiting his next move, Wilmots is now aiming for his side to put on one last qualification show, demonstrating that he is a manager who deserves every respect, adulation, and of course, compensation.

Wales Must Play for Pride

When it comes to the international stage, Wales are certainly not among the greatest. Indeed, the best they have managed in the World Cup is a quarter-final finish in 1958. Even players the likes of Ian Rush, Neville Southall, Ryan Giggs, and now Gareth Bale, have not turned the tide.

Since 1962, they have not qualified for the World Cup, and that record will still stretch on at least until 2018. But the unwavering support of the fans has remained and Wales must give back to those people who have stood by the team all these years, as well as making a case for Chris Coleman to stay as manager.

True, Wales no longer have anything to play for, but they must fight for the only thing they have left, their pride as a nation, and show the world that even if the odds are not in their favour, even if defeat is all but confirmed, they step up to the plate and prove the doubters wrong. There is that, and the small matter of seedings for the 2016 European Championship draw…

Recent form

Belgium 0-0 France (14/08; Friendly)
Scotland 0-2 Belgium (06/09; World Cup qualifier)
Croatia 1-2 Belgium (11/10; World Cup qualifier)

Macedonia 2-1 Wales (06/09; World Cup qualifier)
Wales 0-3 Serbia (10/09; World Cup qualifier)
Wales 1-0 Macedonia (11/10; World Cup qualifier)

Players to Watch

Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne: If there is any player who has the talent to deliver the goods and at the same time has the most motivation to unleash his capabilities, it is De Bruyne. Pushed to the Chelsea reserves by manager Jose Mourinho, De Bruyne knows he must shine like a diamond in this match and prove to his boss he is no small fry. And judging by the form he showed the footballing world during his loan at Werder Bremen last season, he might just be up to the task.

Wales – Aaron Ramsey: Winning the Premier League Player of the Month award is no small feat. Such an accolade is given only to the player that pushes beyond expectations and consistently hits the heights. Winning the award last month, Ramsey certainly showed he belongs there at the top. And if he can replicate his performances with Arsenal in a Wales shirt then Ramsey might just become a national hero as well.

Match Prediction

Technically, both teams no longer have anything to play for, but this game is more than just a World Cup qualifier. With Marc Wilmots angling for a contract extension and Belgium celebrating their heroes, there is need to win in style. As for Wales, it will be Craig Bellamy’s last match for his country before he eventually retires from international football and his team-mates will no doubt be going gung-ho to give the icon the fitting farewell he deserves. Now it boils down to who has the most passion to push through their mission. Regardless, expect the favourites to live up to the task and the underdogs to give no less than a dogged fight. Belgium 2-1 Wales; and Bellamy to score Wales’ goal.

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