FIFA’s Dubious World Ranking: 45
World Cup appearances: 1
Last appearance: 1958
Best performance: Quarter-finalists
Wales v Belgium
Friday 7.45pm – Millennium Stadium (Sky Sports 1)
The future’s bright for Welsh football with the emergence of a generation of young talent with the potential to lift them out of the doldrums that were much of the 90s and most of the 00s. The present is more gloomy however as they’ve been handed a qualification group that’s harder to handle than Craig Bellamy with a golf club.
That whirring sound you can hear in the distance is Belgium and the hype-machine that follows them everywhere these days. They’re about to conquer the world according to people who only watch Premier League football. With Kompany, Hazard, Vermaelen, Dembele, Courtois and Lukaku in their ranks, you can’t really argue that it’s not a wonderfully talented generation, but the levels of hyperbole being afforded them might be a little over the top. If the hype generated by individual performances in the Premier League were enough to win major tournaments, shouldn’t England have won everything since about 1994? Belgium may go on to be a force in Europe in the next few years, but recent results – particularly on the road – show they’re not an uber-reliable, well-oiled winning machine just yet.
I’m all for jumping on bandwagons (I still so want to Make Poverty History), but when you strip away the type and look at what Belgium have actually achieved of late, Wales have a chance of getting something out of this game. They’ve got plenty of young talent of their own, but perhaps the biggest weapon of all will be a crowd that will be vocal even without the addition of a few post work pints on Friday evening. Five years and 39 games have passed since Wales drew a match and ending that sequence now would be a promising signal about what lies ahead.
The ‘I don’t like giving predictions’ prediction: Belgium/Draw @ 13/1 in the Half Time/Full Time betting
Odds of needing to book a flight to Brazil: 9/1
The odds are bigger than Charlotte Church after a relationship break-up. Don’t worry, Ibiza should still be a cool place for a summer holiday by 2014.