I still find it strange having these Euro 2016 qualifiers on different days than before, England are playing tonight and Wales tomorrow. England are expected to thrash minnows San Marino, with all the talk focused on captain Wayne Rooney targeting Jimmy Greaves goal scoring record. It is a similar story in the Wales camp too, as Gareth Bale closes in on Ian Rush’s record a feeling rippling around that Wales have a decent chance of reaching a major tournament.
Bale has said this week that football may finally eclipse rugby in his homeland if Wales qualify for a major tournament for the first time since 1958. On Monday he was named Welsh Footballer of the year for a record fourth time, he continues to go from strength to strength flourishing at Real Madrid. Bale has even been quoted as saying this week that qualifying with Wales for the Euros would be up there with winning the Champions League, be in no doubt as to what it means for him. He has netted 14 times for his country, and is the youngest player to ever make his senior debut at the age of 16. He is half way to Ian Rush’s tally of 28 goals, and judging by his form against Andorra last month where he bagged a brace he shows not signs of stopping. All of this from a man who started as a left back…
Comparisons to Welsh legends such as Rush and Ryan Giggs would lie heavy on some players shoulders, but Bale is the most expensive footballer in the world, he has proved he can handle the pressure. He is the talismanic figure Wales need to qualify for Euro 2016. Unfortunately Aaron Ramsey is out for these next two games with a hamstring injury, but he is another you would hope would contribute in their quest for success. They can call upon the talents of Ashley Williams who is a rock for Swansea City and so often for Wales too, and also Joe Allen, however he is also injured for these two matches. There some more unfamiliar names in that squad, but you just feel with the likes of Bale and Ramsey, providing they can stay fit for the majority of qualifiers, then we could finally see Wales stepping out at a major tournament for the first time in what will be 58 years. Being half Welsh, I certainly hope so.
Wales play Bosnia-Hercegovina on Friday evening, and Cyprus on Monday evening. Both games are at the Cardiff City Stadium.