I’m bored with playing Wales

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I'm bored with playing Wales

Kevin De Bruyne evades a challenge from Joe Morrell during a qualifying group game between the two nations ahead of this year’s World Cup – Kevin De Bruyne admits he is bored of playing Wales – AP

Kevin De Bruyne has admitted he is bored with playing against Wales, Belgium’s opponents on Thursday, and has said it feels like half of his international matches have been against the same opponent.

Belgium welcome Wales to Brussels on Thursday in what will be the ninth meeting between the two sides since September 2012, and their fourth competitive match in the last 18 months alone.

The Nations League clash comes after regular meetings in qualifying for the World Cup and European Championships in recent seasons. The two sides also famously met in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, when Wales emerged as 3-1 winners on one of the greatest nights in their footballing history.

“I think half of my international career has been against Wales,” said De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder. “I don’t know why. It is a little bit boring. I think it is 12 times I have played them, it is always the same teams.”

De Bruyne also said these final two matches before the World Cup will not have a significant impact on Belgium’s World Cup preparations, as the core players in Roberto Martínez’s side have been playing together for years at an international level.

“I don’t think it makes that much of a difference any more,” said De Bruyne of the importance of their upcoming games against Wales and Holland. “We have been playing with the same team for years and years. We just try to finish the two games as best as possible and get ready for the World Cup.”

Belgium will be regarded as one of the strongest teams at the World Cup in Qatar, where they have been placed in a group with Croatia, Canada and Morocco.

They are currently second in their Nations League group, behind Holland, while Wales sit fourth after instead choosing to prioritize their World Cup play-off match against Ukraine in the summer.

Wales manager Robert Page said yesterday that he is “dreading” selecting his World Cup squad because of the competition for places.

Injured quartet Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen will miss the upcoming games with Belgium and Poland but, fitness permitting, they are certain to make Wales’ 26-man squad in Qatar.

I’m already dreading [selecting] the 26 for the World Cup because we’ve got so many great players in the group of 30 or 32, and more,” Page said.

“You’ve just got to be honest with players. You’re not going to please everybody. That’s the hard part of the job. We’ve got a great group. They know it will be nothing personal when I have to make those decisions, but it is difficult keeping them all happy.”

Page has bolstered his squad this week by calling up teenage midfielders Luke Harris and Jordan James for the first time. Harris, who only turned 17 in April, has an impressive scoring record for Fulham’s age-grade sides and made his first-team debut for the Premier League club last month.

Hereford-born James, 18, has impressed for Birmingham in the Championship and has returned to the Wales set-up after playing for England Under-20s in March.

Wales face a tough battle to avoid relegation from the top tier of the Nations League. Late goals conceded against Poland and Holland, twice, in June have left them with only one point from four games.

But even if they lose to Belgium, whom they drew 1-1 with in Cardiff three months ago, beating Poland on Sunday could be enough to secure their top-flight survival.

For that to happen, however, Poland would have to lose at home to the Dutch on Thursday.

Page said: “It (relegation) won’t be a disaster, we’d pick ourselves up. We always look back to the first couple of games. There’s points we could have picked up there, I firmly believe that. But the bigger picture is, because of that, we’ve then had to change our narrative a little bit.

“We’ve given these young lads experience and playing in games against top teams and using that as a benefit. We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance to stay in the division, and our full focus is on that.”

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