This is a simple question – but a good one. Going back 12 years, Greece won Euro 2004 against all the odds in one of the biggest shocks in the history of football. Their squad wasn’t that good, but with teamwork and hard work – they pulled it off. Fastforward 11 years, Wales are set to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in years – but can they go one step further and actually win?
Today, Wales went above England in the World rankings for the first time ever. They are now in the top 10, which is an incredible feat! You look at their record, and see why there is some excitement at the current crop of players. They qualified once for a major tournament in 1958 (World Cup) and since then, nothing. 58 years without a finals appearance – but it looks like that is set to end this year as they lead their current group and are overwhelming favourites to qualify in the top two.
They have beaten Cyprus, Andorra, Israel and Belgium – while drawing again with Belgium and Bosnia. 14 points from 6 games with Cyprus and Israel to play in the next 5 days as well as Andorra and Bosnia next month. They should end unbeaten, and qualify in one of the top two automatic spots for next years show-piece.
You look at their squad and you can see why. Wayne Hennessey in goal – a talented keeper who has had his career blighted by persistent injuries. In the back four you have Neil Taylor, Ben Davies, Ashley Williams and then the likes of Paul Dummett, James Chester and Adam Henley. In midfield – Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley, Joe Allen and Andy King. Then up top you have Gareth Bale, Sam Vokes and Hal-Robson Kanu. Overall – a very talented, young squad full of potential. Bale is the linchpin in the side, with his skill an inspiration to the rest.
You look at Wales teams from the past and you kind of see why they have not ever made it. They have excellent individuals such as Ryan Giggs, John Hartson, Gary Speed and Ian Rush – but the rest of the team has often, if not always been poor. They have got close a few times – playoff defeat in 2004 and once or twice before that at World Cup’s, but never looked likely to get in. Now, they have a star player or two, as well as 10-15 others who are playing at the highest level of English football.
If Bale is injured however, they might be a little knackered with him scoring nearly all their goals so far in Qualifying. They play an interesting formation – a sort of 3-5-2, which converts to a 5-3-2 when defending deeply, like they did against Belgium. However when playing a team they think they can beat – it goes to a 4-1-3-2 or a 4-3-3. Against Cyprus today, it will be the latter I imagine.
With Chris Coleman setting them out well, you have to think they should go quite far at next year’s tournament. Like mentioned though, a Bale-less Wales would probably struggle without their star man. On their day, as proven – they can beat the best. With that confidence, I definitely think they will get through their group they are currently in with ease and then go far next summer.
Could they win it? Stranger things have happened…