Toulouse (France) (AFP) – Kevin De Bruyne wants Belgium’s Euro 2016 quarter-final clash with Wales to be like a home game — the Lille stadium is just 100 kilometres from the Belgian border.
A huge wave of Belgians is expected to cross the frontier to invade the French city to watch their country take on opponents that De Bruyne called “a technically and defensively astute side.”
Belgium are on a high after their 4-0 rout of Hungary on Sunday that saw Chelsea forward Eden Hazard produce an inspirational display as captain. De Bruyne is counting on the Red Devils to produce more of the same.
“I can’t wait for this match, which will be like a home match for us because it’s right on the Belgian border.
“We’re expecting a lot of fans. We hope we can go all the way in this tournament.”
The one-sided performance against Hungary in Toulouse has encouraged Belgian hopes that they can emulate their 1980 feat of reaching the final, when they lost to West Germany.
Against Hungary, De Bruyne swung in a free kick for Toby Alderweireld to give Belgium a 10th-minute lead.
Hazard dazzled fans with some mazy runs, dribbles, and sublime passes that carved open the Hungarian defence with stunning regularity. Belgium scored three goals in a purple 12-minute patch to close the game.
The Chelsea star dribbled past two players to set up second-half substitute Michy Batshuayi to score with his first touch of the game on 78 minutes.
– Nervous favourites –
Hazard scored his maiden goal of the tournament after running across the edge of the area unchallenged to fire a shot that beat Gabor Kiraliy low at his far post.
Late substitute Yannick Carrasco added the fourth in the first minute of added time when he powered down the middle on the counter to beat Kiraly.
As plaudits poured down on Belgium, coach Marc Wilmots was quick to send a word of caution.
“We’re into the quarter-finals, but we’ve done nothing yet,” said Wilmots, who will be without defender Thomas Vermaelen after he picked up a yellow card to trigger a one-match suspension.
But Belgium head to Lille as favourites — and Wales manager Chris Coleman is happy about that after his side laboured to a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland when they were favourites.
“We were edgy going into the Northern Ireland game as we were expected to win and we work better as the underdog,” said Coleman.
“We have proved that — and people will expect Belgium to win. They had some criticism coming into the tournament and they lost the first game (against Italy).
“But if you have a squad with that quality then any team you play against, apart from maybe two or three, Belgium are favourites.”
But after some topping their group ahead of England, and brilliantly beating Russia 3-0, Wales will fancy their chances, and Belgian star Carrasco agrees.
Belgium, who played Wales both in the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 qualifying, failed to win any of their last three meetings against the British side.
Wales also held Belgium twice in Brussels and won 1-0 in Cardiff just over a year ago when Gareth Bale’s winner all but booked their place at the European Championship finals.
As a striker with Atletico Madrid, Carrasco knows Real Madrid forward Bale well.
Carrasco said Hungary was “a great result” for Belgium “but we won’t be getting carried away — we haven’t won the Euro yet.”
“Every match is different. Against the Welsh, we have to produce the same performance. They’re a compact and well-drilled side.
“They’re not going to give us a lot of space. And of course, they have Bale.”
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