Wales stand on the cusp of qualification for next year’s Euro 2020 tournament in the tightest of groups.
A 1-1 draw with Croatia in mid-October was enough to put their fate in their own hands, although they do have work to do if they’re going to qualify for their second major tournament in four years.
Under Chris Coleman they impressed at Euro 2016, but the same manager failed to get them into the World Cup in Russia, leading to him leaving his role and being replaced by Ryan Giggs.
Gareth Bale’s strike earned them a draw against group leaders Croatia, a result that gave them hope after a tough brace of defeats over the summer. Ladbrokes’ guide to Euro 2020 qualifying put Croatia as the favourite to win Group E with Wales as a close second; they’re on 14 points and have just one match left to play, giving them a possible total of 17.
Hungary are second in the group at this stage, and as the Guardian reports they beat Wales in a surprise result earlier in the campaign and have one game remaining; that’s against Giggs’ side. Wales must win that game to stand a chance of going through. If they do, they’ll ensure the Magyars have just 12 points in the final table.
Slovakia are third in a tightly packed group with two matches left to play. One of those is against the whipping boys Azerbaijan, whilst the other is the final game for leaders Croatia. Whilst it’s likely they’ll get the better of the former, their clash with the latter could be a fight for top spot in the group. Slovakia are currently on 10 points and could overhaul Croatia.
That leaves Wales facing Hungary and Azerbaijan, both matches they simply must win. If they manage that their goal difference will move into a positive and they’ll overtake Hungary, but then rely on the outcome of the Slovakia and Croatia game. If that encounter is drawn it’s possible that Croatia will lead the group on 15 points and Slovakia and Wales will be tied on 14, meaning goal difference could come into play.
Wales are a much-changed side from the Chris Coleman years, with Giggs looking to bring through several fresh faces. Whilst the superstar Gareth Bale is still the driving force behind the team, others have grown into their roles in the squad.
The Telegraph reports that Kieffer Moore was playing non-league football as Wales competed in Euro 2016 but his strike against Slovakia capped an impressive rise to prominence. The progress of Daniel James will also be key; the Manchester United winger is most likely to take over from Bale as the talisman of the Red Dragons when the Real Madrid man retires.
He’ll be hoping to inspire them to the brace of wins they need for a seat at the top table when Euro 2020 kicks off in June.