Following the hard-fought triumph in Cyprus, Wales are now just a step away from making history and they are well aware that a win in Cardiff would clinch Euro 2016 qualifying berth. Israel finally ended the run of three defeats by hammering Andorra and they hope to stay in contention for a top 2 finish by beating Chris Coleman’s side.
Wales faithful could have been forgiven for predicting another disappointing campaign as their beloved team were a goal down to minnows Andorra in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier, but there is a good chance that a great comeback in that very game served as a wake-up call for the Red Dragons. They did fail to beat Bosnia at home in the second qualifier, but we could see the desire, character and togetherness that was always going to be needed if Wales were going to reach a major tournament. Led by magnificent Gareth Bale, who had no problems working hard for the team’s cause, but with his teammates also pulling their weight, the Red Dragons first held star-studded Belgium to a goalless draw on the road before recording wins over Israel, Belgium and Cyprus to create a three-point cushion at the Group B summit and a five-point advantage over third-placed Israel. Chris Coleman’s charges now need just another quality performance to secure their place at the European Championship finals, and having looked so impressive throughout the campaign, I seriously doubt they will fall at the final hurdle. It is now clear that Joe Ledley will play no part in the crucial game due to a hamstring problem, with David Vaughan back to the squad as his replacement. However, James Chester should be back after recovering from injury.
Similar to their next opponents, Israel have waited long time to appear at a major tournament, having last achieved such a feat back in 1970, when they crashed out in the group stage of the World Cup finals. Following some promising results in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, the Blue and Whites enjoyed a perfect start to the new qualifying campaign, climbing to the top of what is a very evenly matched group on the back of opening wins over Cyprus, Andorra and Bosnia-Hercegovina. And it was the clash against Wales that changed everything for Eli Guttmann’s side, with 3-0 loss at home serving as a major blow to the players’ confidence. Israel then went on to suffer defeats to Belgium and Bosnia as well, but following another win over Andorra, they again stand a chance of winning one of top two places in the group. The problem is that they have had a host of star players suffer injuries in the build up to the crucial qualifier vs Wales, with the likes of Rami Gershon, Sheran Yeini, Lior Refaelov, Elyaniv Barda, Omer Damari and Itay Shechter all missing. With that in mind, we cannot expect them to stop high-flying Dragons in their tracks.
Wales have proved time and again during the current qualifying campaign that they finally have quality, character and experience to play at the highest level and I believe they can be trusted to extend the impressive run of results. This match comes at a very bad time for Israel, who are without three or four key men, and they will probably have to settle for a play-off berth.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 10/11
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