Belgium kick off the game in their green-ish shirts, while Wales are in their majestic red. You can hear the Wales fans singing Men of Harlech almost immediately. The atmosphere in incredible.
It starts off fast paced, with both teams hitting long balls forward to get some space in the opponents half. Belgiums more technical players like De Bryune and Hazard give them more of a threat from all around, but the compact Wales defense keeps them at bay for the first 5 minutes. A professional foul by Davies on De Bruyne gets him a yellow caard, meaning he will miss the semi final should Wales win this (I have a Robson-feeling we might).
A triple save, one from Big Wayne and two from Ben Davies after some poor defending send Wales fans hearts into their mouths. Ben Davies showing his heroics with a sliding block after Hennessey saves from Carrasaco, and the ball goes out for the corner kick. It’s the first big chance for the Belgiums and are starting to look dangerous.
Gareth Bale gallops down the left hand side, and a thunderous shot looks to be heading but hits the side netting. It’s Wales first chance of the game, and Bale is already looking a threat. He scored the winner against Belgium in Cardiff in the qualifiers and is certainly Wales biggest threat in this game. Wales have some tidy passing in the middle of the pitch but struggle to get that killer ball through.
12 Minutes in and disaster. Some neat passing by Belgium and they get some space around the Wales area. Nainggolan finds some space after Hazard draws a number of defenders to him, and rifles home a powerful shot, Hennessey got fingertips to it, but could do nothing to save it. Wales have looked not as strong in defence as usual.
Wales come out of the blocks quickly, Bale swinging a ball in for Robson-Kanu that sails through, but looked deadly. Wales pass it around the back slickly, and come right back at Belgium with Joe Allen finding Bale out wide right, and Ramsey causing some trouble in the box. James Chester is booked after tripping Lukaku, leaving only Ashley Williams in the back three without a booking.
Belgium stretch this Wales back with some long balls across, with Lukaku just going to early, outpacing Chris Gunter with ease. This game is back and forth with both teams giving it their all from the get go. Wales have a good spell of possession, but struggle to find the kill pass through. We’re looking tidy in the midfield but Belgium have a tough defence to break down, as we settle into a good spell of possession. More diving from the Belgiums as Chris Gunter is booked for a “Foul” on De Bruyne (Note: I am incredibly biased.)
Some patient build up by Wales as Bale finds some space out on the right. A neat reverse ball through to Aaron Ramsey leads to him crossing it in, giving Neil Taylor a one on one with Courtois. To the suprise of no-one, Taylor hit it straight at the goalkeeper. Disappointing, but a great chance by Wales as they start to dominate possession.
Ramsey then finds a lovely through ball to Robson-Kanu, who takes it a bit wide, but recovers by putting Deneyer on his arse and winning a corner for Wales.
At 29 minutes, the corner is swung in, and Wales were utilising a specific set piece routine. The three players including Ashely Williams stood in a line, before splitting and running onto the ball. It worked, and Ashley Williams booshed home a header to equalise for Wales, the celebratory running into the arms of the coaching staff indicative of the close relationships in the squad.
Belgium began to pressure Wales, whipping crosses into the box to the target man Lukaku. They came close, but Wales came closer after a wayward cross led to a Gareth Bale run across the whole pitch, countering beautifully with a shot that was just too weak to beat the Belgium goalkeeper. Wales regained possession, easing the pressure a little after a Belgium’s attempt at getting back in the game. Its a great but of possession by Wales, showcasing their more technical players like Ramsey and Allen and the abilities they have. Wales got another corner, the training ground routine used to score the goal only resulted in header hit wide by James Chester.
Wales continued their dominance until half time, with slick passing by the midfield three of Allen, Ramsey and Ledley carving open chances for the forwards, and winning corners that were narrowly headed wide. Belgium’s defence looked shaky from corners, and the team were limited to shots from outside the box, the Wales defence nullifying the creative players like De Bruyne and Hazard for the most part. A poor cross by Muenier that went out for the goal kick was the highlight, with the Belgium tactics not seeming to know what to do to counter this back 5. On the stroke of half time, Robson-Kanu had a header saved by Belgium as the teams went in at half time 1-1, Wales by far the better of the two teams.
They mainly talked about England. Jesus.