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Wales haven’t qualified for a World Cup tournament since 1958 when former manager Jimmy Murphy led them to a quarter-final finish.
However, they could achieve what they haven’t been able to for over 60 years this time around as they are within touching distance of a second-place finish in Group E which would give them a chance of travelling to Qatar next year.
This month, Wales picked up crucial points in their 2-2 draw away to the Czech Republic and in their 1-0 victory against Estonia. Those results have left them third in their group, level on points with second-placed Czech Republic but with a game in hand.
Although possible, it’s fair to say that it’s extremely unlikely that Wales will end up finishing top in Group E and qualifying automatically for Qatar 2022. Belgium, who are one of many punters betting tips for the World Cup, are currently 5 points ahead of them with two games remaining, one of which is against Wales who will be the big underdogs when they meet in Cardiff next month. However, finishing second is a strong possibility but they will need to ensure that they pick up more points from their two remaining matches against Belarus and Belgium than the Czech’s do in their final fixture at home to Estonia. Four points from those two games would guarantee them a second-place finish although depending on how the final games play out, three points may be enough based on their goal difference compared to the Czech Republic.
Both Wales and the Czech Republic lock horns in the betting markets with online bookmaker Paddy Power, along with most other bookies, offering the same odds of 5/6 on each country to finish in the Top 2 of Group E.
|Group E Top 2 Finish Odds|
There are 13 places in next years World Cup up for grabs for teams from Europe. Ten of those places go to the winners of the ten different groups with the final 3 places being awarded to the winners of the playoffs between ten second-place finishers along with the two highest-ranked Nations League group winners who do not finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying groups.
In total, there will be 12 teams that enter the playoffs. They are split into three groups of four teams with there being two knockout rounds and the remaining three teams at the end of the playoffs will gain their place in the tournament next year.
As mentioned above, if Wales pick up four or more points from their remaining two group matches, they will qualify for the playoffs. It’s also possible for them to qualify by picking up three points should they finish with a better goal difference than the Czech Republic.
However, as Wales won their group in the Nations League, it’s looking likely that they will qualify for the playoffs even if they finish outside of the top two. Out of the Nations League groups winners, Wales are ranked only behind France, Belgium, Italy and Spain and so if at least three of those countries qualify via the group stages, Wales will head into the playoffs by finishing third.
Qualification by finishing second would be preferred as it would mean that Wales would play a semi-final fixture at home as the semis are hosted by the six highest-ranked teams to finish second in their groups.
Automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup looks extremely unlikely for Wales but that was expected given that they were drawn into a group with Belgium. However, they look set to have their chance in the playoffs whether it be by finishing second or third in their group. It will be those two knockout games that will mean the most to Wales and two victories would result in them qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in over 60 years which may be seen as more of an achievement than reaching the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championships.