- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BORDEAUX, France (AP) - Containing Gareth Bale doesn’t appear to be Belgium’s top priority heading into its European Championship quarterfinal against Wales.

Recent experience shows that Belgium has found it difficult breaking down the Wales defense.

Drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, Belgium has struggled against Wales.

In fact the only loss it suffered in the 20 qualifying matches for those tournaments was against Cardiff in Wales a year ago to a Bale goal. Wales took four points off Marc Wilmots’ team in Euro 2016 qualifying and didn’t concede a goal over two games.

Wales is expected to stick with the same sort tactics that have served it so well for Friday’s match in Lille: A five-man defense and swift counter-attacks that use the pace and dribbling ability of Bale.

“We’ve had it very difficult against them,” Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens said Wednesday at the team’s training base just outside Bordeaux. “They have a good block, with three (central) defenders behind. They give you the feeling you can score a goal, let you play a good game, but in the end they score one goal and don’t concede.”

Mertens was asked how to stop Bale, Wales’ undisputed star player and joint-Euro 2016 top goal scorer with three. But again the Napoli midfielder diverted the question back to Wales’ strong defense.

“I don’t like to play against this tactic,” Mertens said. “But they do it really well.”

Belgium has already had problems breaking down a five-man defense this tournament. In their opening Group E match, the Belgians came up against Italy - the masters of defensive containment - and lost 2-0 in Lyon.

No wonder Wilmots was labeling Friday’s quarterfinal “a match of patience.”

The Belgium coach had other worries Wednesday.

He said Eden Hazard, Belgium’s winger and most dangerous attacking weapon, was still feeling a thigh injury that prevented him from taking part in training on Tuesday. Wilmots said he still hopes Hazard will be able to train on Thursday.

Club matters also interrupted the Belgian camp, with Wilmots accepting a request from French side Marseille to allow striker Michy Batshuayi to leave the training base for two hours to undergo a medical at a nearby hospital.

Batshuayi has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea in the English Premier League. Wilmots said he would not be announcing any move.

“I just sorted out the taxi,” he said.

Batshuayi scored for Belgium with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute in the 4-0 win over Hungary in the round of 16. He is set to start on the bench again in Lille, with Romelu Lukaku playing as lone striker.

“The players are happy for him,” Jordan Lukaku, a Belgium defender and brother of Romelu, said of Batshuayi’s potential move to England. “It’s good for the national team that we have players that are growing. It’s good that we have more strikers playing at the highest level.”

Wilmots’ biggest selection decision is who to bring in to replace suspended center back Thomas Vermaelen. Jason Denayer is likely to come in as a straight swap, although there’s an outside possibility that Jordan Lukaku could be recalled and Jan Vertonghen move from left back to center back.

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