Cymru to be seeded for World Cup Play-offs
International
16 November 2021

Cymru to be seeded for World Cup Play-offs

Cymru secured second spot in their FIFA World Cup qualifying group with a 1-1 draw against Belgium on another memorable evening at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Cymru 1-1 Belgium

FIFA WORLD CUP EUROPEAN QUALIFIERS 

  • 16 November 2021
  • Cardiff City Stadium

Kevin De Bruyne had put Belgium ahead early on with a classy finish inside the 12th minute, but Kieffer Moore responded for Cymru when he fired home later in the first half.  

Rob Page’s side had already sealed a play-off place ahead of the visit of the No 1-ranked Belgians – who will be at next year’s tournament after finishing as group winners – having won their UEFA Nations League group. 

But the point ensured Cymru will have a home tie in the semi-finals in March. 

Page made three changes from Cymru’s convincing win over Belarus on Saturday, with Chris Mepham, Joe Morrell and Moore all brought into the starting line-up.  

Danny Ward was called into action inside the opening 11 minutes when Divock Origi found space before driving an effort towards goal from 25 yards, but the goalkeeper was on hand to push the ball behind for a corner. 

Belgium applied the pressure and found the breakthrough a minute later through a classy finish from De Bruyne. Axel Witsel saw his effort ricochet off Joe Rodon and into the path of De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder made no mistake in curling the ball into the bottom corner.  

Roberto Martinez’s side continued to ask questions of the home side as De Bruyne enjoyed another opportunity to double their lead, but it was the home side who drew level with their first effort of the evening on the half-hour mark. 

Dan James showed perseverance to get the better of the Belgium defence and, after they failed to steer his cross to safety, the ball fell to Moore, who brought it under control before firing beyond Koen Casteels to spark delirium around the Cardiff City Stadium. 

De Bruyne caused problems for Wales in the centre of the park and helped the away side carve out two further chances to retake their lead before the half-time whistle. First, his corner was nodded marginally wide of the far post by Dedryck Boyata before his free kick teed up Thorgan Hazard, who rifled a volley at the outside of the post. 

James was having plenty of joy down the left flank and helped create another opening four minutes after the restart by setting up Connor Roberts, but the defender was unable to test Casteels as he guided his shot over the crossbar. 

Belgium then came close to restoring their lead when Hazard laid the ball into the path of Alexis Saelemaekers, who saw his shot blocked by Ben Davies. 

Davies’ defensive partner Neco Williams’ almost rounded off a brilliant individual run when he cut inside on his right foot before striking towards the top corner, only to see his shot expertly kept out by a strong save from Casteels. 

Cymru had to deal with a spell of Belgium pressure in the dying stages, but they stood firm to ensure they secured a well-earned point against the world number ones.

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TALKING POINTS: 

MOORE DELIVERS AGAIN – Kieffer Moore would have been itching to get on the pitch three days earlier as Cymru hit five past Belarus, although the striker was forced to miss the penultimate qualifier due to suspension. But, with the help of Dan James’ perseverance, he marked his return with a bang by firing home his eighth goal on the international stage to spark ecstasy in the Cardiff City Stadium. 

CYMRU CHARACTER – Belgium were without Romelu Lukaku for the trip to Cardiff, while they also left behind captain Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but they still boasted a star-studded side driven by the influential Kevin De Bruyne. The Red Wall could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when he guided home a classy finish early on – and Cymru had to deal with plenty of pressure from the visitors – but Rob Page’s side roared back to ensure it was another memorable occasion in the Welsh capital. 

RED WALL PLAY THEIR PART – More than 32,000 packed out the Cardiff City Stadium for another special night and the Red Wall picked up where they left off on Saturday night. They produced a spine-tingling rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau ahead of kick off and played their part off the field with another vociferous atmosphere.

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THE VERDICT 

Cymru had past experience of toppling the number-one ranked Belgians after their historic 3-1 win in Lille in Euro 2016, and they once again had to come from behind to ensure it was another celebratory occasion at the Cardiff City Stadium. They were without their latest centurion Gareth Bale for their final qualifier, but his team-mates did more than enough in his absence to ensure it was another night to remember in Cymru’s quest to reach next year’s FIFA World Cup.

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TEAMS

Cymru XI: Ward, N.Williams, B.Davies, Rodon, Mepham, Roberts, Allen, Morrell, Ramsey (C) (Johnson 90+2), James, Moore. Subs: Hennessey, A Davies, Gunter, Wilson, T Roberts, J Williams, Colwill, Norrington-Davies, Lawrence, Vaulks, Thomas. 

Manager: Rob Page.                

Goals: Kieffer Moore (32). 

Yellow cards: Morrell (34), Moore (80). 

Red cards: None. 

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Belgium XI: Casteels, Castagne (Dendoncker 58), Boyata, Theate (Vertonghen 85), Meunier (Trossard 85), Witsel, De Bruyne (C), T Hazard, Vanaken, Origi (Vanzeir 59), De Ketelaere (Saelemaekers 58). Subs: Sels, Kaminski, Faes, Carrasco, Mertens, Benteke, Sambi Lokonga. 

Manager: Roberto Martinez. 

Goals: De Bruyne (11). 

Yellow cards: Hazard (71), Dendocker (82). 

Red cards: None. 

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Referee: Artur Dias (POR) Assistant referees: Rui Tavares (POR) and Paulo Soares (POR) Fourth official: Hugo Miguel (POR) VAR: Luis Godinho (POR) Assistant VAR: Fabio Verissimo (POR)