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Rob Burnett: Wales on the brink of ending 57 years of hurt

04 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Wales on the brink of ending 57 years of hurt

Chris Coleman's Dragons - led by Gareth Bale - can make history by beating Israel at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday

Spain. Holland. Croatia. Italy. Uruguay. The Czech Republic. France. Mexico. Russia.

No, not Judith Chalmers’ travel itinerary for September, but a list of the world football heavyweights that are now officially not as good as Wales.

Of course, there is another nation on that list: England.

For the first time in the history of the game, Wales are above the Three Lions in the FIFA rankings, and are also the highest placed of any of the home nations – another first.

Cue much celebrating in Cardiff and beyond – and a glut of gifs on social media of varying degrees of hilarity – when the rankings were revealed on Thursday.

It is a remarkable achievement for Chris Coleman and his men, yet at the same time, almost completely meaningless.

Far, far more important is Sunday’s match with Israel at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Win it, and Wales will have qualified for a major tournament for the first time in more than half a century.

The names Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale and Ashley Williams will forever stand alongside 1950s heroes Ivor Allchurch, Cliff Jones and John Charles – the top men in the side that went to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and even got as far as the quarter-finals.

After beating Cyprus on Thursday night, Coleman had a message for the fans.

“For the Welsh supporters waiting for us to get back home, get excited,” he said. “My message to them is to get carried away. Enjoy this – they’ve waited a long time.

“But we can’t get carried away. I can’t, the players can’t, my staff can’t and we won’t.”

READ: In defence of the FIFA world rankings

You can’t blame the Welsh fans for getting a little worked up about the prospect for a first tournament appearance since the days of Harold Macmillan.

After all, in those 57 years of hurt, a lot has changed.

Back in ’58, the very first motorway was opened – the Preston Bypass, if you’re interested – Blue Peter was aired for the first time -on the UK’s only TV channel – and The Beatles were still called the Quarrymen.

Of course, there will be many fans who simply won’t believe it until the results are in, the place secured. After all, there have been close calls before.

Mike England’s side only missed out on the 1982 World Cup on goal difference.

Unbelievably, they were denied a place at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico for the same reason.

Terry Yorath’s team were just one win away from the 1994 tournament, when Paul Bodin missed a penalty against Romania in the crucial match.

Seconds later, Romania scored to make it 2-1 and Wales missed out again.

Most recently, Mark Hughes’ side looked like they would finally end the torment by qualifying for Euro 2004 – especially after a thrilling 2-1 win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

Alas, a narrow 1-0 aggregate defeat to Russia in the play-offs killed the dream.

And now, here they are again: one game away from glory.

Pob lwc Cymru!

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