London, Nov 16 (EFE).- Wales earned the right to host one of six semifinals in the second stage of UEFA qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by playing to a 1-1 draw at home Tuesday against top-ranked Belgium.
There was nothing on the line for the Belgians, who had already secured their berth in the World Cup by winning Group E, while the Welsh were forced to do without injured star winger Gareth Bale in an important match at Cardiff City Stadium.
Wales had already qualified for the second round based on their performance in the 2020-2021 Nations League, but their draw with Belgium and Turkey’s narrow Group G win Tuesday over Montenegro ensured they will play that stage’s single-leg semifinal match at home.
The Dragons are trying to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958, when they advanced to the quarterfinals before being defeated by a young Pele and Brazil.
The Welsh got off to a bad start in their final Group E match when they failed to clear a weak shot by Axel Witsel and allowed Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne to score from the penalty arc in the 12th minute.
But Ryan Giggs’ men responded quickly, with Kieffer Moore knotting the game at 1-1 with a left-footed shot in the area in minute 32.
That goal put Wales in a strong position in terms of beating out Turkey and gaining home-field advantage in the second round, since the Crescent-Stars needed to rout Montenegro by a four-goal margin on Tuesday unless the Belgians defeated the Welsh.
As it turned out, Wales was in little danger in the second half against a Belgian side that rested many of its top players. Turkey, meanwhile, got the win in Podgorica, but only by a score of 2-1.
By securing home field in the second-stage semifinals, Wales have avoided the possibility of an initial away clash against a powerhouse side such as Euro 2020 champion Italy or Euro 2016 winner Portugal.
In other action Tuesday, the Netherlands secured a berth in Qatar by defeating Norway 2-0 in Rotterdam thanks to late goals by Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay (his 12th in qualifying action).
With the win, the Oranje won Group G, edging out second-place Turkey by two points.
Norway, who were playing without injured superstar striker Erling Braut Haaland, were in desperate need of a victory to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
But they didn’t play like it, rarely creating any danger in the Netherlands’ final third.
The Dutch had a golden opportunity to clinch their spot in the World Cup on Saturday against Montenegro, but they gave up two late goals in Podgorica and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. EFE