Wales have been drawn against Belgium in their qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how the two sides have fared since Wales memorably beat the team now ranked number one in the world in the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.
Wales’ stunning win over Belgium in Lille was the greatest victory in their footballing history, carrying them into the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time in their first appearance in one since 1958. Radja Nainggolan had put Belgium ahead with a long-range strike but Ashley Williams levelled before a brilliant turn and finish from Hal Robson-Kanu and a late third from Sam Vokes won it. The fairytale run ended in the next game with a disappointing 2-0 loss to eventual champions Portugal in Lyon.
Wales’ unexpected run to the last four at Euro 2016 enhanced manager Chris Coleman’s reputation considerably and he became a man in demand. He stayed on for a further 17 months before deciding to return to club management with then Championship bottom side Sunderland. He was succeeded in January 2018 by Ryan Giggs who – a brief stint as caretaker boss at Manchester United aside – was looking to cut his teeth in frontline management.
Belgium, who were ranked second in the world at Euro 2016, sacked Marc Wilmots after the tournament for failing to reach their “intended goals” with a formidably talented squad. He was followed by Roberto Martinez, a surprising choice given the Catalan had himself been sacked by Everton just months earlier.
World Cup 2018
Coleman was still in charge for Wales’ campaign to qualify for the World Cup in Russia but it was one that ended in disappointment. Defeat to the Republic of Ireland in their final game meant they finished third in their group behind Serbia and the Irish, narrowly missing out on a play-off place.
Belgium, by contrast, eased through qualifying and went to Russia as one of the favourites. They justified that tag on a superb run to the semi-finals, winning all their games in a group that included England and knocking out Brazil in the quarter-finals. Their hopes ended with a semi-final loss to eventual winners France but they claimed the consolation of third place by beating England again.
Euro 2020 and Nations League
Wales gained some measure of revenge as they thrashed Ireland 4-1 in the 2018-19 Nations League in Giggs’ first competitive game but they eventually finished second in their group behind Denmark. They qualified automatically for Euro 2020 as runners-up to Croatia in their group. They followed that up with an impressive showing in the 2020-21 Nations League, gaining promotion to League A with five wins from their six games.
Belgium missed out on a place in the last four of the inaugural Nations League on goal difference but they eased through Euro 2020 qualification, winning all 10 of their matches by an aggregate score of 40-3. They will again be among the favourites when the delayed tournament takes place next year. They are also through to the 2021 Nations League finals after winning a group that included England.
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