Kieffer Moore secures Wales top spot and a home World Cup semi-final

Band Sam Dean

Aaron Ramsey thinks it would be “big” for Wales ’hopes of reaching the World Cup final if they secured a home draw for next year’s finals.

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

Wales have a strong record in competitive fixtures at home, have lost just one of their past 18 home qualifying matches, and a final in Cardiff would be a huge opportunity for the squad.

“That was our goal, to finish second in the group, and that hasn’t changed,” Ramsey said. “If we manage to get a result on Tuesday, we will have achieved it. That home draw will be massive but there are great teams in that pot that we might be able to pull off.

“They will be huge games for us. To qualify for the World Cup, these opportunities will not come very often. It may be the last time we have a chance as good as this.”

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

“Obviously I didn’t have the amount of match minutes I would have liked, but I’m fine,” he said. “I had a good week of training and we played well the other night.

“Playing for Wales is a very special and very proud moment for me whenever I get that opportunity, so I make sure I enjoy 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, and Wales manager Rob Page said it was always the intention of his captain being used as an effective substitute against the Belgians.

“He’ll never start,” Page said. “We knew it when we came to 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 didn’t play for a few months and throw him for that game [Belarus] it was a big question from a physical point of view. He did his own recovery today and we’ll leave it to the last minute to see if he can play any minutes. “

The Welshman could have been helped by Belgian manager Roberto Martinez by calling for a weakened side.

The world’s No. 1 ranked team had already ensured they would finish above the qualifying group, and Martinez later left a series of key players outside his squad. Youri Tielemans, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Jason Denayer are not involved in the tour group.

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

Referee Artur Dias (Portugal).


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