5,473 total views, 2 views today
Wales ended a 64-year wait to qualify for the World Cup with a gritty 1-0 victory over Ukraine at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
While Ukraine could themselves unfortunate after dominating the play-off game, Wales showed tremendous character to get the job done.
They head to Qatar as one of the outsiders to lift the trophy, but will fancy their chances of upsetting the bookmakers’ odds during the tournament.
The latest FIFA World Cup 2022 outright market lists Wales at 350/1, highlighting the size of the task they face later this year. Betway has Wales at 125/1 to win tournament which could look huge if they win their first game.
However, having been drawn against England, United States and Iran in the group stage, Wales will believe they can make it to the knockout phase.
Manager Rob Page insisted his team will ‘go toe-to-toe with anybody’ at the World Cup, having built belief from their performances at the last two European Championships.
“We go with the confidence we have had going into any game,” Page told the BBC.
“We have played against the USA. We know they are a really strong outfit. We played against their European-based players in my first game.
“They (and Iran) are winnable games and, when you play against a home nations team, anything can happen.
“We will go toe-to-toe with anybody – bring it on. That’s the attitude we have got in that changing room.”
Wales’ improvement in recent times has been remarkable, particularly when you consider they were ranked 117th in the world just 11 years ago.
A 2-1 home defeat against Australia left them below Haiti in the rankings – a sad state of affairs for a nation with a proud football history.
The foundations for their climb back up the rankings were undoubtedly laid by the late Gary Speed, who instilled a new sense of belief and identity in the squad.
Wales subsequently reached the 2016 European Championship semi-finals, before progressing to the knockout stage from a tough group four years later.
Page’s confidence about his team’s chances of success in Qatar is not misplaced given how they performed at Euro 2020.
The finished second behind Italy in the group stage, before exiting the tournament against a vibrant Denmark team in the round of 16.
While progressing to the knockout phase in Qatar will not be easy for Wales, it would undoubtedly be foolish to underestimate their chances.
Group B is the toughest in the opening phase based on world rankings, but Wales are perfectly capable of qualifying for the round of 16.
They are fancied to take at least a point from their first match against United States, while Iran should hold no fears for them a few days later.
A minimum four-point haul from those two games would set Wales up nicely for their final group match against England.
The Three Lions are one of the favourites to win the World Cup, although many respected pundits believe they have little chance of lifting the trophy.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s overly cautious tactics often lead to laboured performances from England and Wales could make life difficult for them.
Having waited 64 years to qualify for the World Cup, it would be no surprise to see Wales grab the opportunity with both hands and make significant progress in Qatar.