Wales are a team arriving at Euro 2016 with their confidence high after qualifying for a major tournament for only the second time in history.
Qualification was all in all reasonably straightforward, only losing once in a campaign in what turned out to be a dead rubber affair in Bosnia as due to other results the Welsh Dragons had already qualified.
No doubt the highlight of the campaign came at home against Belgium as Wales earned a 1-0 home win against a side that at the time were ranked as the best national side on the planet, the goal coming via the familiar left foot of that man Gareth Bale. Other highlights included a thrashing of Israel 3-0 in the city of Haifa last May and a hard fought draw in the return fixture against Belgium.
Wales will no doubt be a hard team to play against for anyone, due to their excellent current form and always stellar travelling support, they also have the dynamic duo of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale who have been at the heart of this squad and are undoubtedly 2 of the best players to step foot in France this Summer.
As a developing side - Wales may be slightly flattered by their outright odds of 50/1 chalked up by many of the online bookmakers, as they are in and around the current quotes for more established and more experienced teams, such as Poland and Switzerland, but still with a few quality players and a great team work ethic they must be respected.
Realistically Wales must be looking at qualifying from Group B as an achievement in itself but if they were to get through Group B then the possibilities could be endless, however this would involve knocking out either Russia (the established side consisting of proven European performers) or England and this would be a huge ask for a team who have qualified for their first European Championships this time around.
Nothing to say here as in recent years Wales have been a world away from qualifying for any major tournament, a sole World Cup qualification in 1958 and a Euro's in 1976 being their only other performances in the international big leagues.
|11.06.16||17.00||Wales||2 - 1||Slovakia|
|11.06.16||20.00||England||1 - 1||Russia|
|15.06.16||14.00||Russia||1 - 2||Slovakia|
|16.06.16||14.00||England||2 - 1||Wales|
|20.06.16||20.00||Russia||0 - 3||Wales|
|20.06.16||20.00||Slovakia||0 - 0||England|
Group B is a competitive group with no banker bet for any position. Wales most likely chance at advancing through to the knockout stages would be as runners-up, but taking the title of group winners is not as unlikely as some would think - if England produce their customary group stage disaster then it blows the group wide open.
Below is a list of the 4 teams drawn in Group B and their FIFA World Ranking, as you can see, Wales are the 2nd highest ranked team, just behind England.
The expected whipping boys will be Slovakia who Wales face in their opening match. This may prove to be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how they deal with the Slovaks, as an early win will bring confidence and set Wales up for the two remaining games against England and Russia. Obviously a loss or draw and Wales are immediately on the back foot and facing an uphill battle to qualify. The bet here would be Wales to qualify second behind England but this group could potentially go anyway.
Wales are very heavily reliant on the talents of Gareth Bale who scored 7 of their qualifying goals with Aaron Ramsey netting twice, this is not too dissimilar to Portugal's reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo and he managed to take them to a final in 2004. The lack of deeper options within the squad could be a problem though if Bale fails to fire.
Although at the likely odds, another possible bet would be Bale to be the Top Welsh Goalscorer, 1 or 2 goals may be enough to win this market and because of this it makes 5/4 for Bale far too short.
|Hal Robson Kanu||26||Forward||1|
Not an easy one to decipher as 3 teams in Group B will be vying to get through to the last 16 in the top spot. Russia v Wales will decide the fate of this side and a huge factor will be the inexperience of the entire squad which will be a disadvantage against both England and Russia. The smart money would be on Wales to exit early on as Russia may just have too much for this emerging side with England also fancying their chances against their neighbours.
Although at decent odds, Wales are the value bet to beat Russia to the punch and sneak through in second place. The Slovakia game should set up the Welsh Dragons with their first points and with England playing Russia on the same day, Wales should be on the front foot with Russia playing catch up.
Real Madrid's number 11 is the standout name on the Welsh team sheet. Gareth Bale scored vital goals in the Champions League in his first season at Real Madrid and this may be just the experience he needs coming into a tournament with the hope of a nation resting on his shoulders. Bale will need to be quick out of the blocks to get his first goal in international competition, if he can manage a goal against Slovakia he may be difficult to stop.
Wales play up-tempo counter-attacking style football, utilizing the pace and power of both Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, Bale usually resides in a free roll giving plenty of options and makes him the perfect sniper to shoot Wales through to the last 16. Difficult to mark and with blistering pace, Bale could shine bright and launch Wales onto the World stage.