Vertonghen injury blow for Belgium but Hazard back for Wales match

Belgium's defensive woes grew in the form of a tournament-ending ankle injury for Jan Vertonghen on the eve of Friday's Euro 2016 quarter-final against a determined Wales team.

The good news however for the Red Devils is that captain Eden Hazard is fit to play again in Lille, after returning to training Thursday from a thigh muscle problem.

Coach Marc Wilmots told a news conference that Tottenham left back Vertonghen ruptured two ankle ligaments when trying to control the ball just as "I blew the whistle to end the training session."

"It is a sporting tragedy, he was an important player for us," Wilmots said, adding that Vertonghen should be out of action for up to eight weeks.

With centre back Thomas Vermaelen suspended on Friday Wilmots must now weigh his options who to bring in. Jordan Lukaku is seen as a candidate for left back.

Wilmots hopes that the expected large Belgium contingent in Lille - some 100,000 Belgians are expected overall to descend on the Northern French city less than 20km across the border - can lift the team.

"It is great to have a 12th man because of these issues. We will do everything in our power but we have had some tough blows," he said.

It could have been even worse but Chelsea's Hazard reported back to training amid expectations that he can duplicate his performance from the 4-0 last 16 win over Hungary in which he scored and set up two other goals.

Hazard is affected as a left winger by Vertonghen's injury but said "we must adjust" in a return to the city where he arrived at age 14 and started his professional career at OSC Lille.

"It is always nice to come back to Lille. I learnt a lot, how to become a footballer," he said.

Belgium must be rated favourites given their depth of class players which also include the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, but the Wales team of Gareth Bale and manager Chris Coleman also has ambitions in their biggest match since the 1958 World Cup quarters.

"We will defend with our lives and we will attack with our lives. They will be in for a hell of a match," Coleman said.

"Since 1958 you have to put this down as the biggest game our country has been in."

Both teams met in qualifying for the Euros in France and in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, with each side winning once and drawing twice.

"Belgium are recognized as one of the best. They know us, we know them," Coleman said. "This is another huge test and a big challenge."

Captain Ashley Williams will be ready to play after sustaining a shoulder injury in the last 16 win over Northern Ireland.

He labelled Hazard "one of the best players in the world" and said "we will keep an eye on him as a team."

Hazard said the key to a Belgian success is making more of their chances than in the past meetings.

"We didn't create too many chances, struggled to score. They play five at the back, are difficult to displace and have a superstar up front," he said.

"I hope tomorrow will be different and we score goals."

Last update: Thu, 30/06/2016 - 20:22
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