Kieffer Moore secures Wales top seed status and home World Cup play-off semi-final

Kieffer Moore secures Wales top seed status and home World Cup play-off semi-final
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, Kieffer Moore secures Wales top seed status and home World Cup play-off semi-final ,

By Sam Dean

Aaron Ramsey believes it would be “massive” for Wales’s hopes of reaching the World Cup finals if they were to secure a home tie for next year’s play-offs.

Wales have already guaranteed a place in the play-offs by winning their Nations League group, but must finish second in their qualifying group to have a home draw. They can do that by beating or drawing with Belgium in Cardiff tonight.

Wales have a strong record in competitive fixtures at home, having lost only one of their past 18 home qualifying matches, and a play-off in Cardiff would be an enormous occasion for the squad.

“That was our target, to finish second in the group, and that has not changed,” Ramsey said. “If we manage to get a result on Tuesday we will have achieved it. That home tie is going to be massive but there are great teams in that pot who we could potentially draw.

“They are going to be huge games for us. To qualify for a World Cup, these opportunities won’t come along very often. It might be the last time we have an opportunity as good as this.”

Ramsey scored twice in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Belarus despite remaining out of favour at Juventus, where he has played just six minutes in the past month.

“Obviously I have not had the amount of match minutes I would have liked but I am feeling good,” he said. “I have had a good week’s training and we played well the other night.

“Playing for Wales is very special and a very proud moment for me whenever I get that opportunity, so I make sure I make the most of every opportunity. Hopefully we can produce a memorable night.”

The midfielder’s experience will be needed again tonight, with Gareth Bale not fit enough to start after struggling with a hamstring problem in recent months.

The Real Madrid player trained on his own yesterday, with Wales manager Rob Page saying it was always the intention for his captain to be used as an impact substitute against the Belgians.

“He was never going to start,” Page said. “We knew that coming into camp. The plan was always for him to get a half in the first game and then come on and maybe have an impact in the second game.

“He has not played for a couple of months and to throw him in for that game [Belarus] was a big ask from a physical point of view. He has done his own recovery today and we will leave it to the last minute to see if he can play any minutes.”

The Welsh cause could be helped by Belgium manager Roberto Martinez naming a weakened side.

The world’s No 1-ranked team have already ensured they will finish top of the qualifying group, and Martinez has subsequently left a series of key players out of his squad. Youri Tielemans, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Jason Denayer are not involved in the travelling party.

Wales (probable, 3-4-3) Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ramsey, Allen, Williams; Wilson, Moore, James.
Belgium (probable, 3-4-3) Casteels; Castagne, Boyata, Vertonghen; Meunier, Vanaken, Witsel, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Benteke, T Hazard.

Referee Artur Dias (Portugal).

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