Euro 2016 special - Ben v Belgians
30 June 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
A little over a year after Wales’ famous victory over Belgium in Euro 2016 qualifying, the two sides meet again in the quarter-finals of the main competition in France on Friday night – and there are buoyant Spurs players in both camps ahead of kick-off!
Ben Davies has been ever-present for the Welsh side at the tournament so far as they’ve navigated their way into the last eight by taking top spot in Group B with two wins out of three and then seeing off Northern Ireland in the last 16.
Likewise, his defensive colleagues at club level, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, have played every minute of every match for Belgium to date, with midfielder Mousa Dembele also on duty in their Group E victory over the Republic of Ireland before being forced off injured.
Indeed, Toby was on the scoresheet as the Red Devils made a real statement with a 4-0 thrashing of Hungary last time out, with his nation also having won two out of three group games prior to that.
But with the spectre of that 1-0 defeat to Wales in Cardiff 12 months ago hanging over them, it remains to be seen who will take the upper hand in Lille and book their spot in the semi-finals.
Here’s what some of our lads have told us exclusively from France in the build-up to the game…
What do you make of facing a Welsh side that includes your club team-mate, Ben Davies?
Toby: “Ben is having a wonderful tournament but unfortunately one of us will have to go! It will be a tough game. We’ve had difficulties playing against Wales in the past because they defend very well – we know that sometimes they have five at the back and they are difficult to break down. We will have to be very clinical up top and be at our best in front of goal but we’ll have to be careful as well and watch out for Gareth Bale. They have good players and they’re a danger on the counter-attack.”
How key do you think Ben is to the Wales set-up?
Toby: “Ben is a good all-round defender but their strength is as a team. Everybody fights for the ball, their players are strong and they don’t give a lot of chances away. I’m still very confident that we’ll give them a good game though. I might go for a shirt swap with Ben afterwards – we live close together in London too, so I know him well.”
Will you contact Ben before the game?
Toby: “I will speak to him a little, maybe send him a message, but I don’t want to speak to him too much. They will know that we’ll be ready for them. It’s an honour to play in games like this and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Do you expect the game to be similar in style to your matches against Wales in qualifying?
Toby: “It’s different to the qualifying games against them as it’s a quarter-final at the Euros but, of course, we can learn from those matches. We know that we will have a very tough opponent and it won’t be easy. They’re going to give everything to go through – we have to do the same and bring the same intensity and strength to the game.”
You obviously beat Belgium in qualifying – are you confident of repeating that feat now in the quarter-finals?
Ben: “It’s going to be a hard game against them, no question. From playing with some of the Belgian boys at Spurs I know how good they are and how tough it’s going to be. That said, we will have to be ready for what they are going to throw at us.”
Tell us about the feelings in the Welsh camp ahead of kick-off.
Ben: “We are all really looking forward to it and, to a man, we will give 100 per cent to try to progress to the semi-finals. The character we’ve shown at the tournament so far has been great and we’ve had some top performances so hopefully we can take that forward and get past Belgium.”
There’s obviously a lot of excitement around this game – how do you feel about it?
Mousa: “We have a lot of respect for Wales. Of course, we know that they have a lot of good players but quality-wise I think we have a great team. We know they’ve shown a good attitude and a lot of willingness so it’s not going to be an easy game, they’re going to be very motivated but we are as well. We know we’ll have to concentrate. Of course, we lost to them in qualifying but that means nothing, this is a new game and I think we have a lot of confidence after the last performance against Hungary. At the moment I think we are at our top level so it’s going to be an interesting game.”
You obviously played alongside Gareth Bale earlier in your Spurs career and you’re a current team-mate of Ben Davies. What’s your view on facing them?
Mousa: “It’s always nice to play against current team-mates or old team-mates – it makes the game extra-special. We all know they are very good players and like I said before we have a lot of respect for them, but I think on our behalf and from them as well it doesn’t make a difference – we just want to win the game. After the match we’re going to shake each other’s hands but during the game it’s going to be a battle. It’s a positive thing that some of us have played with some of their players and because of that we know they have a lot of qualities.”
Kick-off on Friday night is at 8pm UK time.