The clash between two up-and-coming national teams is likely to bring us a lot of excitement at Cardiff City Stadium. While Wales hope to return to winning ways after three friendly defeats, Belgium aim to continue in the same manner after beating Netherlands in their final warm-up game.
More injury worries for Chris Coleman
While boasting one of the most talented squads in world football, Wales would always enter crucial qualifying games deprived of at least several star players through injury and such a curse appears to be still very much active. This has prevented previous national team bosses to build a decent team spirit, and in spite of all their efforts, Wales remain a group of extremely talented individuals, but they are by no means a homogenous unit. Friendly defeats to Costa Rica, Mexico and Bosnia-Hercegovina showed the Dragons are not yet ready to mount a serious challenge for a place at a major tournament, and no wonder online bookmakers see them as major underdogs in the clash with enthusiastic Belgium side. Once again, the hosts will be missing a number of regular starters through injury, which is going to make their job a lot more difficult, especially seeing that Chris Coleman doesn’t have such a big squad to choose from.
Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor, Joe Ledley, David Vaughan, Wayne Hennessey, Andrew Crofts and Joel Lynch all miss out through injury.
Belgium finally playing to their potential
Belgium have been regarded as one of the most talented sides in Europe over the last few years, but the Red Devils just couldn’t find a way to realize their enormous potential. The team would shine once or twice during a qualifying campaign, but there was absolutely no consistency. The Euro 2012 qualifiers proved that the team were indeed progressing, with some promising showings against Germany and Turkey hinting Belgium were on the right track. However, it appears that the arrival of coach Marc Wilmots was the turning point as he somehow managed to create a homogenous unit from a squad filled with individual talent. The 4-2 away victory over arch rivals Netherlands was celebrated all over the country and it showed the team were completely ready for the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Besides Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, who had long been considered key players in their respective clubs, Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembele, Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini have also matured a great deal over the last year, and this Belgium side look like they will soon become one of Europe’s giants.
Boss Marc Wilmots has absolutely no selection problems and will field his strongest possible line-up.
Wales may have a number of talented players in their ranks, but they lack the experience of playing at international level, while team’s chances in this match are further damaged by the absence of several important players. Belgium appear to be on fire at the moment, and I don’t see how the hosts are going to stop the likes of Hazard, Lukaku, Fellaini and Dembele from scoring.
Our prediction: Away win
Odds: 1.90 (9/10)