Kevin De Bruyne: I’m bored with playing Wales
Hazard, Tielemans and De Bruyne all start for Belgium
Bale on the bench for injury-hit Wales
24 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
De Bruyne is clean through down the left and you think for all the world that he’s going to slide it past Hennessey until he gets the ball caught under his feet.
Carrasco and Batshuayi then each have chances that they may feel they should have done better with.
Wales are on the rack here.
20 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
Eden Hazard hasn’t had a huge amount of football for Real Madrid this season but he looks sharp here.
He’s popping up deeper than we’re accustomed to seeing him normally but his neat touches and feints are launching plenty of dangerous attacks.
18 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
Wales do have some threat here but they just can’t find any quality in the final third. The crossing, in particular, has been poor.
At the other end, Kiefer Moore gives the ball away and Belgium swarm forward. De Bruyne unleashes a shot from the edge of the box but it sails over the bar.
15 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
A huge chance goes begging for Belgium.
Carrasco has Mepham in knots and he weaves into the area and squares the ball across the six-yard box.
He finds an unmark Tielemans in the box but he scuffs his left-foot shot wide.
Moments later, De Bruyne puts Batshuayi in with a ball over the top but Wales deal with the danger well.
11 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
I’ve actually underplayed that finish from De Bruyne. A real touch of class from the Manchester City man.
10 min: Belgium 1-0 Wales
Belgium enjoy their longest spell of possession and the chance comes after Meunier feeds Batshuayi down the right.
The striker does well to find De Bruyne on the edge of the box, who produces a calm finish with his left foot.
De Bruyne puts Belgium ahead
6 min: Belgium 0-0 Wales
After a pretty slow start Belgium are enjoying more possession. Carrasco feeds De Bruyne on the overlap but Wales respond well and earn a goal kick.
4 min: Belgium 0-0 Wales
Tielemans is dispossessed in midfield and Johnson breaks away again. He feeds Roberts wide on the right but the ref blows after second ball appears on the pitch.
That was decent chance for Wales and Rob Page is less than amused.
2 min: Belgium 0-0 Wales
Bright start from Wales, who get Brennan Johnson into the box down the right after some neat interplay. He has a great chance to pick out a man but his cross is loose and drifts over the bar.
0 min: Belgium 0-0 Wales
We’re underway and Kiefer Moore has attempted to break the record for the quickest foul in Nations League history after catching Alderweireld with an elbow.
The man in charge
Turkey’s Ali Palabiyik is tonight’s referee.
The Welsh do always smash their anthem. Another rousing rendition from a sizeable travelling contingent in Brussells tonight.
The teams are in the tunnel
Here they come. The two sides appear and stand in front of a strange inflatable balloon carrying some kind of ad campaign.
A bad description from me admittedly but it is pretty weird.
Rob Page could give international debuts to two uncapped teenagers this evening.
Birmingham City midfielder Jordan James, 28, has been in excellent form for his club so far this season and has been rewarded with his first call up.
The other is 17-year-old Luke Harris. The midfielder has only made on senior appearance for Fulham in his young career and would become the fourth youngest player to represent Wales at 17 years and 171 days.
Wayne Hennessey is in goal for Wales tonight despite making just one appearance for Nottingham Forest so far this season.
Leicester’s Danny Ward is on the bench after enduring a rocky start after replacing Kasper Schmeichel in goal at the King Power Stadium.
Must keep reminding ourselves this is a game with actual Nations League ramifications….difficult though that may be.
The prestige (or lack there of) of this competition is probably underlined by the fact that for many this is really just a World Cup tune-up.
Here’s a few nuggets for you number crunches out there.
Belgium have never lost a home match against Wales in seven previous meetings on home soil (four wins, three draws), winning 3-1 in the most recent game at Den Dreef in March 2021.
Belgium are the leading scorers in the Nations League with 37 goals, scoring in every game. The Belgians have also conceded 23 goals, with the 60 goals in their matches the most of any nation.
In their last 13 away matches, Wales have either kept a clean sheet (six times) or conceded at least twice (seven times), shipping 18 goals.
Hope you statos are suitably satiated for now.
What about Gareth?
Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale is among the substitutes tonight but is only expected to playa limited role.
Bale, who joined Los Angeles FC earlier this summer has appeared mostly as a substitute in the MLS so far.
With a World Cup on the horizon, Page will be keen to do all he can to make sure his star gets to Qatar fit and healthy.
It would be a surprise to see him in anything other a fleeting appearance this evening.
Here’s what Wales manager Rob Page had to say ahead of this one.
“We’ve got three or four key players out with Joe in the middle of the park, Ben Davies and Aaron and Harry, so you’ve got to get the balance right.
“I’m not going to risk anyone’s health or injury with a World Cup in November but we also want to stay in the division.
“We’ve fought with one hand tied behind our back before in the first couple of games because of the [World Cup play-off] final and unfortunately we’re in the position we’re in.
“But we’ve still got two games left to stay in the division so we’ll take that. If we can qualify for a World Cup and still be in League A, I’d be really proud of the players.”
Nations League group outlook
With two games to go, there’s plenty on the line for both these sides as far as the Nations League is concerned.
For Belgium, a win here keeps them within touching distance of group leaders, the Netherlands, and will set up a final-game shootout for Group 4 with the Dutch – irrelevant of what Louis van Gaal’s side do against Poland this evening.
For Wales the equation is simple. They must at least match Poland’s result against the Netherlands tonight to give themselves a chance of of avoiding relegation when they face the Poles on Sunday.
Look at the scenes
No punches pulled by Martinez
Belgium are fielding what looks a strong side on paper. De Bruyne, Hazard, Tielemans, Witsel – to name just four. Top-class talent everywhere….
With a World Cup just around a corner and a Nations League group win to chase, Roberto Martinez is not messing around here.
Here are the teams…
Belgium XI: Courtois; Debast, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Batshuayi, Hazard
Wales XI: Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Norrington-Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, Smith, N Williams; Johnson, Moore, James
…and welcome to the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels as Belgium and Wales meet for a fourth time in the last 18 months.
This clash comes in the UEFA Nations League but the game’s importance surely lies more in its capacity as the first of two final games before both sides head to Qatar World Cup in November.
Roberto Martinez and Rob Page have just the remainder of this week to work with their squads before finalising their selection plans ahead of the World Cup, meaning fringe squad members will be desperate to impress as they attempt to book their place on the plane to Qatar.
Tonight’s sides have met with regularity over the past decade. In fact, after meeting just eight times from 1949 to 1997, they have matched that number since 2012 – with tonight’s clash their ninth over that period.
Belgium superstar Kevin de Bruyne has even admitted to being bored by facing Wales in the run up to this one.
“I think half of my international career has been against Wales,” said De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder. “I don’t know why. It is a little bit boring. I think it is 12 times I have played them, it is always the same teams.”
While the quote was made more in jest than severity, it is worth noting that the head-to-head between the sides since 2012 have been remarkably even considering Belgium’s place among the presumed elite of international football.
Each side has two wins from the eight games, with the remaining four, including the two most recent, resulting in draws.
While attention will understandably be on the World Cup, Rob Page will be aware that a loss for his side here will condemn them to relegation into League B in the Nations League.
The Welsh have just one point from their four games in Group 4 but a win here would set them up for a relegation decider against Poland on Sunday.