After a 2-2 draw in the Czech Republic and a 1-0 win in Estonia, it now seems certain that Cymru will have to get a win and a draw against Belarus and Belgium in the last two European Group E fixtures in Cardiff in November in order to finish runners-up and go into the play-offs. Otherwise, failing to finish in the top two will mean having to rely on getting a play-off place as one of the best two Nations League group winners – and that would entail, for starters, an away match against seeded opponents in the single-leg play-off semi-finals.
Mind you, there is still a mathematical possibility that Cymru could win the Group outright and qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup. For that to happen, Belgium – the top-ranked team on the planet – must lose at home to Estonia while Cymru are defeating Belarus and then we’ve got to beat the Flemish/Walloon conglomerate (established 1830) in the final showdown on November 16th. Is this likely?
Oh look, there’s a litter of winged piglets passing overhead…
More probably, one way or another, we are heading for the torture chamber of the play-offs. Oh why is everything so difficult, demanding and drawn-out? That’s not a rhetorical question – I want answers!
As for last week’s two matches, the exciting draw in Prague was notable for the welcome return of Aaron Ramsey from injury and a freakish own-goal by keeper Danny Ward that is likely to have a starring role in blooper compilations on YouTube, while the undistinguished win in Tallinn was memorable only for the fact that Lady Luck was on our side for once. The head-to-head record against these two opponents is now:
Meanwhile Chris Gunter increased his record appearance tally to 106 caps and Gareth Bale, missing injured (hamstring – his 24th injury since he joined Real Madrid in 2013), remains stuck on 99 caps. It goes without saying, it is essential that he’s fit for the November games – so I’ll say it.
Equally important, perhaps more so in the long run, is ‘Our Wales/ Ein Cymru’ the FAW’s six-year strategic plan, launched in September by new chief executive Noel Mooney. Having picked my way through meaningless mumbo-jumbo, corporate-speak buzzwords, panglossian wishful thinking, banal bromides and airy-fairy visions, I think it all boils down to “creating a leading football nation”. Hey! That’s a great idea!
Picture: Public domain