Euro 2016: Wales on brink of history after win in Cyprus

By Rob PhillipsBBC Wales football correspondent
Gareth Bale: Winner one of my best headers
Euro 2016 qualifiers: Wales v Israel
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Kick-off: 17:00 BST, Sunday, 6 September
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and online.

Cast away the calculators, Gareth Bale has simplified the maths required for Wales to reach the Euro 2016 finals.

After the 1-0 victory over Cyprus in Nicosia Chris Coleman's men have three games left to guarantee themselves a place at the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

But a nation wants to party this weekend.

And a win against Israel in Cardiff on Sunday would seal the deal and fire the starting gun for a celebration in the streets of the capital . . . and the rest of the country.

Why a draw would delay the party

Three points against Israel would take Wales to 20 points and automatic qualification, and fans and players will be hoping Israel do not disrupt their party plans.

Unbeaten Wales are top of Group B from which two teams qualify automatically and a third could earn a place in the play-offs.

Belgium's 3-1 win over top seeds Bosnia and Herzegovina keeps them on course for one of the two automatic spots.

But Israel will arrive in Cardiff following their expected 4-0 thrashing of Andorra still hopeful of qualifying themselves.

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has scored 18 goals in 51 internationals for Wales

A draw on Sunday will not be enough to guarantee qualification for Wales because the visitors could still overhaul them with each country having two fixtures to complete their programmes in November.

Wales have the insurance of a home match last against bottom placed Andorra on 13 October, three days after they have made a tough trip to face Bosnia.

Coleman banned all talk of Israel ahead of the clash in Cyprus.

After the win in the Cypriot capital it was clear the players were doing their best not to lose their focus on Sunday's game by discussing party plans.

But Coleman says the fans need have no such reservations, urging them to get ''carried away.''

Defence the best form of attack

More than 3,000 Wales supporters made their presence felt in Nicosia on a sweltering night of high tension.

It took Bale's goal to subdue Cyprus and spark fanatical Welsh celebrations, but the win was built on a rock-solid defence magnificently marshalled by captain Ashley Williams.

Wales coped with everything in Cyprus, says boss Chris Coleman

Wales have kept four consecutive clean sheets and still Wales have yet to concede from open play in qualifying.

It's now six hours and 49 minutes since Wales conceded to a free-kick from Vincent Laban during the 2-1 win over Cyprus, at the Cardiff City Stadium, on 13 October, 2014.

Williams's performances make it all the more remarkable that no club has even tried lure the central defender away from Swansea.

There are few Premier League back lines he would not improve. Amazingly he was once rejected as a youngster by West Bromwich Albion.


Wales: sounds a bit like Bales

It's easy to see why it happens - but it's a glib simplicity to dub Wales "Bales".

But there's more to this squad than that.

David Edwards' superb display after coming in as a late replacement for the injured Joe Ledley in Cyprus typified the collective spirit which has taken Wales to the brink of qualification.

And yet it was Bale who turned a game destined to be a draw into a crucial win - it's why he is the most expensive player on the planet.

Great players deliver when their team most needs them.

England fans remember David Beckham's free kick against Greece to book a place in the 2002 World Cup finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo won a shoot-out with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure Portugal triumphed over Sweden in the play-offs for the 2014 World Cup.

In this campaign Wales have scored nine goals in this qualifying campaign. Bale has scored six of those and has two assists.

Indeed, Bale and midfielder Aaron Ramsey have scored 13 of Wales' last 14 away goals.

Craig Bellamy says Bale is the finest player he has ever seen in a Wales shirt.

There are other contenders - Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs and John Charles to name a few.

Out of those only Charles played in the finals of major championships - Bale stands on the brink of matching his achievement.

Hal Robson-Kanu in action against Cyprus
Wales have not lost since a friendly defeat to the Netherlands in June 2014

Another case of history repeating

If Wales beat Israel to secure their qualification it will be a case of history repeating.

It was Israel that Wales beat over two legs to qualify for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Israel had won their qualifying section by default as no African or Asian country would play them following the Suez crisis of 1956.

With Fifa unwilling to allow a team into the World Cup finals without playing a match, Jimmy Murphy's Wales - who had finished behind Czechoslovakia in their qualification group - went into the so-called lucky losers' draw with eight other European runners-up to play off against Israel.

Belgium were actually drawn out first - but declined the opportunity to play. The next name out was Wales. They had no such hesitation.

They won the first leg 2-0 in Tel Aviv with goals from Ivor Allchurch and Dave Bowen and completed the job in the second leg 2-0 as Allchurch scored again and Cliff Jones netted the other.

The class of 2015 are in no way ''lucky losers.''

But Welsh fans will hope Israel will again feature when the story is written of how Coleman's men made it to the promised land.

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