Not in this writer’s lifetime has Wales ever been represented at a major international football tournament, and it’s always looked unlikely. That is until an impressive display so far in Group B of the qualifying rounds for Euro 2016 has seen hopes rise to an all time high.
But should fans be as expectant as they are or could they do with curbing the rampant enthusiasm?
There’s been a sense of progress for Welsh football ever since the late Gary Speed was at the helm. The team’s style was to actually try to play the game instead of simply trying to shut the opposition out and it’s a refreshing sight for everyone involved with Chris Coleman’s side.
Wales are currently sitting pretty at the top of their qualifying group, although favourites Belgium still have a game in hand.
With 7 points from 2 wins and a draw, the undefeated young squad are exceeding expectations and with the rest of the group apart from the aforementioned Belgians hardly being world-beaters, it’s not unfathomable to see Wales reach Euro 2016.
The key to qualification? A young man by the name of Gareth Bale.
The world’s most expensive footballer is never not going to be making headlines for his performances and it’s just what the Cardiff native did against Cyprus on Monday evening. A commanding performance from the winger saw him assist Hal Robson Kanu’s goal to make it 2-0 after David Cotterill had put Wales ahead. They were able to cling on desperately after Andy King was sent off for a 2-1 win.
It’s often too easy to forget the other 10 players who line-up for Wales when Bale is in the frame. You could also make mention of Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal (currently sidelined with a hamstring injury), Liverpool’s Joe Allen and Joe Ledley as players to keep an eye on.
However, for all of the Ian Rush’s and Mark Hughes’s Wales have had in the past, there has always been a slight lack of quality in defence. Whether the likes of Ashley Williams and Danny Gabbidon can shore up the back enough to ease Wales to Euro 2016 will be interesting to see.
It may be early days but if Wales can keep up this early form going into the harder ties against Belgium, there should be no reason why we won’t be seeing them in their first major competition since 1958.
“Gareth Bale” by www.flickr.com/photos/blogdroed, license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0