Wales host Belgium in 2014 World Cup qualifying opener

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey
Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will lead Wales' 2014 World Cup assault

Wales will begin and end their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Belgium.

Gary Speed's side will host the Belgians on Friday, 7 September 2012, with the return fixture set for Tuesday, 15 October 2013.

A tough run-in sees Wales welcome Serbia before former manager John Toshack returns home with his Macedonia side on Friday, 11 October 2013.

The Welsh host Scotland in October 2012 before the return game in March 2013.

Both dates are officially listed as being subject to police approval, but a Strathclyde Police spokesman has told BBC Scotland that it will relax objections that have prevented major domestic fixtures being played on Fridays.

The fixtures were confirmed after a meeting of the Group A rivals in Brussels on Wednesday, which at one stage appeared to be heading for a deadlock.

"This is such a well-balanced group that we knew everyone would be looking for an early advantage," said Speed.

"As always, there had to be some give and take, but I am very glad that we did not have to use the June qualifying dates.

"All the matches are double headers for us so we need to keep our good form going now through the friendly matches that we have and on to the start of the qualifiers next autumn and beyond."

After beginning at home to Belgium, Wales will visit Serbia four days later to complete the first of five double-headers.

Scotland, beaten on their last two visits to Wales, will be the second visitors on Friday, 12 October, before Speed's side travel to Croatia on Tuesday, 16 October.

Wales then visit Scotland on 22 March for their first game in 2013 before Gareth Bale welcomes his Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Luka Modric to Wales as Croatia visit on Tuesday, 26 March.

Speed goes head-to-head with predecessor Toshack for the first time in their first fixture in Macedonia on Friday, 6 September 2013 before Serbia, currently ranked 27th in the world, return for the start of Wales' difficult closing schedule.

Only the nine group winners are guaranteed a place at the 20th World Cup finals in Brazil.

The other four other places available for European teams will be decided via play-off games between the eight-best second-placed teams.

"It was a hard and sometimes frustrating day," Wales assistant Raymond Verheijen told his Twitter sideexternal-link.

"But now we can't wait for our first home game vs Belgium on Friday Sep 7."

A rejuvenated Wales have won four of their last five games under Speed but the Welsh have not qualified for a World Cup since 1958.

The recent run of wins came too late to save Wales' 2012 European Championship qualifying hopes after consecutive defeats forced them of out contention after the four opening games.

The finals will take place between 12 June and 13 July, and a at next March's meeting of the International FA Board, the game's lawmakers.

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