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Euro 2016: Wales captain Ashley Williams fit to face Belgium

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Ashley Williams ended the game against Northern Ireland with restricted movement in his arm

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Wales captain Ashley Williams – a doubt with a shoulder injury – is fit to play against Belgium in Friday’s Euro 2016 quarter-final against Belgium.

The central defender suffered the injury against Northern Ireland on Saturday and had his arm in a sling during the post-match celebrations

Belgium will monitor forward Eden Hazard, who returned to training on Thursday after a thigh injury.

But they are without defender Thomas Vermaelen, who serves a one-game ban.

And there are reports that another defender – Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen – twisted his knee in training and will also miss the match in Lille.

Vertonghen had been playing at left-back at Euro 2016 but it was thought he would move alongside Toby Alderweireld in the centre of defence to replace Vermaelen.

Meanwhile, Williams paid tribute to the Welsh medical staff after declaring himself fit to face the Belgians.

“Obviously it was hurting a lot at the end of the game, but a lot of credit goes to the medical staff,” he said.

“They’ve done a great job on me and I’ve trained in all the sessions this week. It’s in good shape and I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Wales quartet Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey, Neil Taylor and Sam Vokes are all one booking away from suspension after picking up yellow cards earlier in the tournament.

Wales play Belgium in a European Championship qualifier at Cardiff Arms Park in October 1990.

MATCH PREVIEW

The Welsh squad evidently take great satisfaction at being the last home nation standing at Euro 2016 – but victory against Belgium on Friday would be a result no-one could begrudge them celebrating.

Marc Wilmots’ star-studded squad are ranked second in the world and have shown ominous signs of finding their best form in the last fortnight. After the disappointment of defeat by Italy in their opening match, the Belgians have recovered impressively, winning their subsequent three games and scoring eight unanswered goals.

However, Wales have a clear template for how to beat Belgium, having kept clean sheets in both meetings during Euro 2016 qualifying.

Their game-plan then was to sit deep, stifle and occasionally pounce on the counter-attack – a ploy which enabled the Welsh to earn a goalless draw in Brussels in November 2014 and a 1-0 victory in the return fixture last summer.

Dragon is only motivation I need – Bale

Forward Gareth Bale says Wales have improved since that win – and believes the result gave them “belief that we can take on and beat the big teams”.

Bale also claims it may give Wales a psychological edge on Friday.

“We’re like their bogey team, aren’t we? Hopefully that edge gets into their heads – you never know,” he said.

“We will definitely draw on those qualifiers. We know how to play against them and how they play.”

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • Belgium have won five of the 12 previous meetings, with four victories for Wales and three draws.
  • The Belgians failed to score against the Welsh in Euro 2016 qualifying, drawing 0-0 in Brussels and losing 1-0 in Cardiff to a goal from Gareth Bale.
  • This is the first time these teams have met in the finals of a major tournament.

Wales

  • The Welsh have not reached the semi-finals of a major tournament before. This is their best finals performance since reaching the quarter-finals at the 1958 World Cup, when they lost 1-0 to Brazil.
  • Wales have trailed for only two minutes and 31 seconds (including injury time) in their four games at Euro 2016.
  • The three goals Wales have conceded at Euro 2016 have all come from the 56th minute onwards – and have all been scored by substitutes.
  • Wales had just one shot on target in their last game against Northern Ireland – a free-kick by Gareth Bale.
  • Aaron Ramsey has scored or assisted three of the last five goals netted by Welsh players (excluding the own goal scored by Northern Ireland’s Gareth McAuley).
  • Wales have kept two consecutive clean sheets for the first time at a major tournament.

Belgium

  • The Belgians last reached the semi-finals of a major tournament at the 1986 World Cup, when they eventually finished fourth.
  • Seven of Belgium’s eight goals at Euro 2016 have been scored after half-time, including six in the last half hour.
  • Kevin de Bruyne has been directly involved in 12 goals in his last 12 games with Belgium (five goals, seven assists).
  • They have not conceded in their last three games – their longest run of clean sheets at a major tournament.
  • Eden Hazard has assisted three goals at Euro 2016 – matching his tally in the Premier League for Chelsea in 2015-16.
  • Hazard completed 12 dribbles against Hungary, the most in a European Championship game since 1980.

Source: BBC Football Read Original Article: Euro 2016: Wales captain Ashley Williams fit to face Belgium

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