Joe Allen meets Belgium again with memories refreshed of Wales’ stunning Euro 2016 victory over them in Lille by having watched a replay of the game last summer.
Allen was laid up with a snapped Achilles tendon that would have ruled him out of Euro 2020 but for the tournament being delayed 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So he took the opportunity to tune into lockdown repeats of Euro 2016, with BBC Wales showing every game of the Dragons’ march to the semi-final.
“A lot of the lads were talking about how they were showing the games again,” said Allen, back in the Wales squad after a 16-month absence in time for the start of Wales’ 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in Leuven on Wednesday.
“I’d never watched them back, so I had a chance to go through them again and take that trip down memory lane.
“They reminded me how much it meant to so many people and what a great thing it was to be part of.
“The moment Vokesy (Sam Vokes) scores against Belgium is the big moment. It’s when we realised we’d won the game and we were through.
“That was a thrilling moment and one we’ll never forget. There was a lot of disbelief after where we found ourselves, but we were thinking ‘bring on the semis’ and let’s see how far we can take it.
“What a summer it was and we all want to get a taste of something similar this summer, with one eye on getting to a World Cup. The older players realise it could be a last chance to get to one.”
Allen was injured last March and did not return to first-team action for Stoke until Boxing Day.
The 31-year-old admits it has been “a long road back”, but he is set to win his 56th cap against a star-studded Belgium outfit full of English-based talent he has played against many times in his career.
Allen will also see a familiar face in the Belgium dugout, the Red Devils’ manager Roberto Martinez having handed him his Swansea debut nearly 14 years ago.
“Roberto was fantastic for me and a huge influence,” Allen said.
“He gave me the chance to break into the first team at a young age at Swansea with a style and way of playing that was perfect.
“He was great for me to learn my trade and develop my game. I owe him a lot.
“I think we all knew as players back then that he was going to go on to achieve great things as a manager.
“It’s not surprising he’s got one of the biggest jobs in international football now and is working with some great players.”
Although Belgium stand tall as the number one side on the FIFA rankings, the Red Devils’ record against Wales is not so impressive.
Wales are unbeaten in four games since October 2013 with two wins and a couple of draws, their last meeting being that 3-1 victory at the Euro 2016 quarter-final.
Allen said: “Hopefully we can use the disappointment they’ve had from playing against us before to our advantage. Maybe that can be used in our favour, who knows?
“But they’ve got plenty of great players to test myself against.
“The one that stands out is Kevin De Bruyne, who I think is one of the best players in the world.
“It will be a huge challenge for me individually and the team.”