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Saturday, 13 June 2015 11:38

An unforgettable night in Cardiff

FRIDAY 12th JUNE: Cardiff City Stadium - humid, wet
WALES 1 BELGIUM 0 (UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying)
Mid June and, marooned between the two football seasons, there's a sudden flurry of football activity in Cardiff this weekend. For most people, the big event is this crucial Euro 2016 qualifying match (although the minds of two local clubs are bound to be on another match, less than 24 hours later - but more of that tomorrow).

Expectations ahead of the visit of Belgium have probably been higher than at any time in recent years. Wales, unbeaten at the halfway stage of their group, joint top with Belgium, and radiating belief and togetherness, two qualities not always present in our national set-up. The nation senses something has changed and that something big is about to happen and the build-up to this game has been big, on all broadcast and social media.

So big, perhaps, that people are starting to talk as if Wales are favourites - to beat a team officially ranked second in the world. The Welsh football public is in uncharted territory here - we're used to despair, dejection and embarrassment - we know how to handle those. Hope is trickier: seasoned fans bear the mental scars of having hoped before, and are wary.... and yet, when you think you've put it in its place, hope creeps back in - could this really be different ?

Realistically, what do the 33,000 fans making their way to Cardiff City Stadium expect ? They've heard about the spirit in the Welsh camp, they've heard how important the fans' vocal support is, and they expect the team to give as much as they will themselves. But probably most would settle for a draw, not to lose, to stay level with Belgium at the top of the group.

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