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    Can Wales realistically qualify for Russia 2018?


    Can Wales realistically qualify for Russia 2018?
    After such a glorious campaign in Euro 2016, it would be a great disappointment if Wales fail to qualify. But as of the time of writing, The Dragons sit in third in Group D with eight points, making them four points behind Serbia (top) and the Republic of Ireland (second on goal difference).

    It didn't look good for Wales as they went into their away game in Serbia at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade on June 11. Main man Gareth Bale and defender Neil Taylor were both suspended for the match. Meanwhile, striker Hal Robson-Kanu, defender James Collins and midfielders Andy King and Jonny Williams were all out with injuries.

    Still, the Welshmen managed to keep alive their hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In fact, they were unlucky not to leave Serbia with all three points. Aaron Ramsey's Panenka penalty looked like it might be enough. But then Newcastle and Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised in the 73rd minute, in a near repeat of the reverse fixture back in November 2016.

    What do Wales need to do?
    The four-point gap at between first/second and third means that even if Wales win all of their remaining four matches, they might still fail to qualify.

    The next match is at home against Austria on September 2 2017. Austria are fourth with six points, putting them in reaching distance of Wales. All of this shows that the path to World Cup qualification is anything but clear cut; even bottom-placed Moldova could technically qualify (although we doubt it).  

    A home win against Austria would be a huge boost to their chances of qualification, but, then again, even a top-two spot might not be enough to reach the World Cup next year.

    Wales will definitely be without Joe Allen, after the Stoke City midfielder received his second yellow card of the qualifiers during the game against Serbia. But while this hampers their chances slightly, Bale's impending return makes it more likely that Wales will win that particular match.

    What the bookies say
    At the time of writing, only four of the top ten bookies on Bookmaker Advisor are offering any odds on Wales' upcoming matches, and only on the match against Austria. Bet365 currently has Wales as narrow favourites on 6/5 to win, 23/10 for a draw, and 9/4 for an away win for Austria.

    Bwin also has Wales as 6/5 favourites, even closer odds of 21/10 for a draw, and 23/10 for Austrian win. Betway lists the Dragons at 5/4 to win, with odds of 12/5 for a Serbian victory and 21/10 for a draw. Unibet offer similar odds to Betway, although it believes a draw slightly more likely at 11/5.

    As it stands, there's surely no clear-cut winner of Group D and Wales still have everything to play for. With their last game at home against the Republic of Ireland on October 9, we could see a nail-biting finale. But who knows?

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    Posted: Thursday 17th August 2017
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