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Victory in Cyprus to take Wales and Bale one step closer to history

03 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Victory in Cyprus to take Wales and Bale one step closer to history

The Wales No. 11 is near to achieving something Ryan Giggs never could: propelling his country to their first major tournament since 1958

Two of the greatest footballers to never play in a major international tournament are Welsh wingers renowned for wearing the No. 11 shirt.

But while that opportunity has forever passed the now-retired Ryan Giggs, it is looking increasingly likely that Gareth Bale will get to showcase his world-class talents at next summer’s European Championship.

It will be no less than Bale deserves considering the absolute commitment he has always demonstrated towards representing his national side.

That was not always the case with Giggs, who experienced a solid – if unspectacular – 16-year career with the Dragons.

The Manchester United legend made 64 appearances during that time, but there was always the suspicion that playing for the Old Trafford club – and manager Sir Alex Ferguson – was his priority.

And who can blame him? His medal collection includes 13 Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions Leagues, after all.

But there is certainly something endearing about how much Bale – a European Cup winner himself with Real Madrid – revels in playing for his country.

Since making his debut nine years ago, the 26-year-old has won 50 caps and scored 17 goals.

Giggs, meanwhile, finished with a modest 12 when making the pragmatic decision to retire from international football in 2007.

Five of Bale’s strikes have been in Wales’ six Euro 2016 qualifiers – the team has scored eight overall – and it is not an overstatement to attribute the contribution of the ex-Tottenham player as the primary reason for his side’s position at the top of Group B.

Three points clear of Belgium with four fixtures remaining, Chris Coleman’s side – up to their highest-ever position of ninth in the FIFA world rankings – are two matches away from reaching their first major competition since 1958.

But they are not there yet.

The quality of Bale, therefore, will be relied upon once more for the visit to fourth-placed Cyprus on Thursday.

As ever, the world’s most expensive player – who scored twice in his club’s 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis at the weekend – will relish the responsibility.

The Real man scored first in Wales’ win over Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium in June and is 5/1 to repeat that in Nicosia.

The forward also grabbed a brace in the 3-0 victory in Israel in March and he is 5/1 to score twice or more this time around.

Coleman – aided by the presence of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams – has crafted an organised team renowned for its defensive organisation and team spirit.

They have kept three clean sheets in their last four qualifiers and are 9/10 to not concede against Cyprus.

It is those qualities that have ensured that Wales remain unbeaten in the group and, having won three of their last four qualifiers away from home, the visitors are 4/5 to claim all three points against Cyprus, who suffered a home 2-1 defeat against Israel in October.

That would set them up perfectly for Sunday’s game against Israel in Cardiff, where victory would guarantee their participation in a major finals for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.

The anxiety-inducing burden of history – plus football’s natural proclivity for dramatics – makes such a simple-sounding proposition far from certain.

In Bale, though, Wales have someone who is accustomed to influencing high-pressure matches at vital moments.

That should be enough to ensure their progression.

And enable the current No. 11 to achieve one of the few things that the jersey’s previous incumbent never could.

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