On four occasions in the last four years, Wales appeared as an obstacle on the path of Diables Rouges, who will once again confront them Friday night (21:00) at Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq (Lille) in the quarter-finals of Eurocup 2016. It has never been a formality, and no one forgets the 1-0 victory (to go on to 0-0 at the Roi Baudouin Stadium) offered by Radja Nainggolan to Gareth Bale, on June 12th, 2015 at the Millenium Stadium of Cardiff.
“They’re an adversary that are very difficult to manoeuver,” admitted head coach Marc Wilmots at a press conference following Tuesday’s practice at Le Haillan. “The Welsh are most often five defenders and are on the lookout for any possible space, which they gobble up as soon as they have the chance. The evolution of this team in the past years is truly impressive. Also, they presently have a midfield which is at the same time talented and experienced. And of course a world-class player, Gareth Bale, in the front…”
The “other star” of Real Madrid has in this way taken charge of the scoreboard three times in this Eurocup, as well as an assist against Northern Ireland (1-0) in the group of sixteen round.
“His position is free and he is on the sides as well as in the centre. It is therefore impossible to know where he will come from,” winced Wilmots. “It is hence not a matter of attaching a bodyguard behind him. We need to neutralize him collectively…”
Although he has a high regard for the Welsh team, Wilmots does not ignore the fact that following its display of last Sunday in Nice against Hungary (4-0) in the group of sixteen round, Belgium will be the favourite Friday in Lille by an ample margin.
“Like England yesterday (Monday) against Iceland,” he stated. “And you know what happened to them. Being the favourite means nothing, at least not in football.
It is very difficult to get around a strong defensive bloc. We can also surely be happy to wait. But it’s not our philosophy, and we will not change. We want to make the game, to reach the quarter-finals like we did two years ago at the last World Cup, which shows that we are doing well. But it is clear that this time we want to go even further…” concluded Wilmots.