Wales 2022 World Cup preview – predictions, fixtures, team, star player
Ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, Sports Mole outline Wales’ chances ahead of their first appearance at the tournament since 1958.
There was a time in Wales‘ recent history where qualifying for a major tournament remained a distant dream after decades of disappointment and a few near misses.
However, since the end Gary Speed began the journey of rounding the corner for the Dragons, the fairy tale run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 under Chris Colman helped cement Wales as a dark horse on the international stage, whether in qualifying or at a tournament itself.
After their round of 16 at Euro 2020, the next goal was to end their 64-year wait for a second appearance at a world Cupsomething that was achieved through two memorable playoff triumphs earlier this year.
Today, all attention is on Qatar, with Robert Page is looking to guide his team to the round of 16 of a major competition for the third time in a row and Gareth Bale looks to once again bring star quality to what could be his swansong before hanging up his boots.
Here, sports mole gives an insight into Wales’ chances at the upcoming tournament in the Middle East.
This group goes under the radar as one of the most competitive in the tournament with all four nations in the top 20 of the world rankings, and Page will recognize that his side can ill afford defeat to a US side of similar status.
Four days later, 20th-ranked Iran take on the Dragons, with both teams looking to have at least three points to their name before heading into their final matches.
For Wales, it’s against rivals England, with all three Wales matches taking place at the same stadium – a rare occurrence, but something that could benefit them in the last week of November.
21 November : USA v Wales (7pm, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)
November 25: Wales v Iran (10am, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)
November 29: Wales v England (7pm, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)
HOW THEY ARE QUALIFIED
A five-nation group involving Belgium and the Czech Republic didn’t leave Wales much room for error, and the former’s presence realistically meant they were in contention for a playoff spot. .
The trip to Brussels came first, with Wales losing 3-1 despite heading Harry Wilsonand Czech-held Belgium three days later meant Cymru were under huge pressure to deliver at home to the last of those sides in Cardiff at the end of the three-game-in-a-week swing, with Wales having the second game day.
A delay Daniel James The goal secured maximum points but Wales found themselves trailing in Belarus in their next game, only for a Gareth Bale hat-trick which was completed in the third minute of injury time to save the game. situation.
The goalless draw at home to Estonia was deemed a disaster, but Wales followed up that disappointment with a 2-2 away draw in the Czech Republic, with James again scoring a key goal in second half which effectively saved the Wales campaign.
A nervy win in Estonia and a 5-1 home defeat to Belarus meant that avoiding the home loss to Belgium would allow Wales to avoid the bigger nations in the qualifiers, and Kieffer MooreThe equalizer set up a playoff semi-final with Austria rather than Italy or Portugal.
Bale’s two superb goals – the first from an outrageously accurate free-kick – earned an unforgettable 2-1 triumph over Austria, setting up a Cardiff showdown with Ukraine, who had outclassed Scotland at Hampden Park.
While the visitors had the better of the game, Wales prevailed thanks to Bale’s deflected effort, another memorable moment in the country’s recent history.
That win against Ukraine came as recently as June 5, splitting Wales’ UEFA Nations League campaign, and although it added an extra game to an already packed schedule, it represents the country’s only victory of Wales in his last seven outings.
Being drawn against the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland guaranteed tough games, but Page wouldn’t have considered picking up a single point from six matches.
As well as conceding 11 times, three strikes came in the 85th minute and beyond, making the difference between a draw and a loss, and that’s a stat that won’t be lost on their opponents in Qatar.
The only positive was Brennan JohnsonLate goal ended in a draw at home to Belgium, but Wales travel to Qatar having lost four of their last five matches.
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 9, 2022
Guardians: Wayne Hennessey (Nottingham Forest), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City)
Defenders: Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Joe Rodon (Rennes, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ethan Ampadu (Spezia, on loan from Chelsea), Chris Gunter (AFC Wimbledon), Connor Roberts (Burnley), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town)
Midfielders: Aaron Ramsey (Nice), Joe Allen (Swansea City), Harry Wilson (Fulham), Joe Morrell (Portsmouth), Dylan Levitt (Dundee United), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City), Jonny Williams (Swindon Town), Matthew Smith (Milton Keynes Dons), Sorba Thomas (Town of Huddersfield)
Forwards: Gareth Bale (Los Angeles FC), Dan James (Fulham, on loan from Leeds United), Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth), Mark Harris (Cardiff City), Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest)
STAR PLAYER – GARETH BALE
Whether 100 per cent fit or not, Bale’s presence in a Wales shirt means he automatically becomes his country’s key player, with the former Real Madrid striker possessing the attributes to deliver moments. winners in an instance.
A record 40 goals in 108 international appearances only tells part of the story. The consistency with which he produced magic for his country will stand the test of time, but he dragged a team and his nation with him through his leadership, commitment and passion for the cause.
Real Madrid’s loss in recent years has been Wales’ gain. Both environments were chalk and cheese, and the camaraderie within the Dragons camp always brought out the best in their generational player.
Bale’s fitness before this tournament will likely remain under the microscope. Eleven of his 13 appearances for Los Angeles FC have come from the substitutes’ bench, but Bale reminded everyone of his abilities in the last MLS Cup final.
MANAGER – ROBERT PAGE
Having captained Port Vale and Northampton Town until 2017, Page could never have realistically imagined he would captain his country to a World Cup five years later.
However, after playing an instrumental role with the Wales Under-21s, helping players transition to the senior ranks, the 48-year-old deserved his chance when an alternative was needed to Ryan Gigg.
A record of 10 wins, nine draws and nine defeats in 28 games in charge doesn’t sound that impressive on paper, but considering Wales have enjoyed Euro 2020 and the top-flight football in the league. he UEFA Nations League during this period is more than respectable performance.
Although there have been times when he, like his team, has been too reliant on Bale’s brilliance, there is no doubt that Page is the right man to take Wales forward in the long term, whatever whatever his situation in Qatar.
WORLD CUP RECORD
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1958)
Despite emerging on the international scene over the past eight years, Wales have not appeared at a World Cup since 1958, reaching the quarter-finals in their one and only appearance.
Remarkably, jimmy murphyThe team went through a group with Sweden, Hungary and Mexico without winning a game, drawing all three games and then having to beat Hungary 2-1 in a hastily arranged playoff after finishing on the same points.
Wales would retire in the first knockout game, falling to a goal from Pele as Brazil won 1-0 in Gothenburg before their opponents on that occasion lifted their first-ever World Cup.
Following their run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, there had been high hopes of Wales qualifying for the final edition in 2018, but drawing five of their 10 matches saw them left two points behind the Republic of Ireland in their bid for a place in the play-offs.
On paper, Wales will be delighted with their group. They’ve troubled England in the past, USA are talented but inconsistent and Iran are a bit of an unknown quantity now that they possess more quality than in previous editions.
Nonetheless, we think Wales might just miss out. A balance needs to be struck between maximizing the points from the USA and Iran games and ensuring they stay in contention going into the final game against England. For us, this can lead to one too many draws and a third place.
VERDICT: Third in Group B