World Cup 2022 team preview: Can Bale inspire Wales to one last hurrah?

Our trader Neil Walsh previews the Dragons' chances in Qatar.

Wales Football Team, Gareth Bale and Wayne Hennessey

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England fans may lament 56 years of hurt consisting of near-misses and penalty shoot-out losses since they were last world champions, but for neighbours and group opponents Wales, it’s been 64 years of misery since they even qualified – barely even coming close since 1958.

They were eventually knocked out at the quarter-finals stage in 1958 where a 17-year-old Pele scored his first World Cup goal to knock the Principality out of their debut tournament. The closest they came to reaching the final since was last time out, for Russia 2018, when a final day defeat to Ireland extended their misery.

But they are here now, and Paddy football trader Neil Walsh takes a look at what to expect from Group B challengers Wales at the World Cup 2022.

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Wales World Cup 2022 qualifying record

Having lost their opening game away to Belgium, Wales went the following seven unbeaten to finish second ahead of Czech Republic by one point, advancing to the play-offs were they navigated past Austria and Ukraine to finally end their World Cup hoodoo.

Who is the Wales manager?

Rob Page spent most of his playing career in the Championship and captained Graham Taylor’s Watford, who secured promotion from the second tier to the Premier League at the tail end of the last millennium. Page made his managerial debut with Port Vale before being head-hunted by Northampton Town. He then took charge of Wales Under 21s and was promoted to the senior side as Ryan Giggs’ assistant, before eventually succeeding the Man Utd legend in the top job.

He becomes the first manager born post-war to guide Wales to a World Cup – and to put that into context that’s WWI, with their gaffer in 1958 born in 1910!

Rob Page, Wales manager

Wales World Cup squad

While the bulk of the squad is made up of Championship players there are plenty with Premier League experience – and more importantly international tournament experience – having qualified for the previous two European Championships and successfully getting out of their group on each occasion. There is quite a continental feel to the set-up with three of their centre-backs plying their trade outside the UK (James Lawrence – Nuremberg, Joe Rodon – Rennes on loan from Spurs and Ethan Amadu – Spezia on loan from Chelsea) while their most famous export, and captain, Gareth Bale is now playing in LA, and Aaron Ramsey has pitched up at Nice after a rough time at Juventus and Rangers.

With plenty of options in midfield, including veteran Joe Allen, Harry Wilson, Dan James and Joe Morrell, expect changes from match-to-match from Page who will likely tinker with his squad in the opening two games in build-up for their final game showdown with England. The coach favours using a classic 4-4-2 formation but often plays players out of position and relies heavily on solid passers in the middle and fast attacking wide men and full backs.

  • Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Adam Davies.
  • Defenders: Ben Davies, Ben Cabango, Tom Lockyer, Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham, Ethan Ampadu, Chris Gunter, Neco Williams, Connor Roberts.
  • Midfielders: Sorba Thomas, Joe Allen, Matthew Smith, Dylan Levitt, Harry Wilson, Joe Morrell, Jonny Williams, Aaron Ramsey, Rubin Colwill.
  • Forwards: Gareth Bale, Kieffer Moore, Mark Harris, Brennan Johnson, Dan James.

Wales Key Player

Who else? While his commitment to Real Madrid was brought into question throughout the later stages of his eight seasons at the Bernabeu, Gareth Bale has always given his all for Wales.

Saying he carried them single-handedly to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 would be doing a disservice to the rest of the squad, but he did play a pivotal role and did so once again in qualifying for this year’s World Cup as top goalscorer with five goals in just seven games including the play-offs. In all he’s got 40 for his country, dwarfing Ian Rush next on 28 and is second in appearances by just one with 108 caps to Chris Gunter’s 109.

Gareth Bale, Wales

Wales One to Watch

Having clung on to being a Liverpool player for seven years (with only one senior appearance) Harry Wilson finally made a permanent transfer to Fulham this year after a series of loan spells mainly to Championship sides. A fast right-sided wide player whose style of play is not too dissimilar to that of Bale, he also possess a major threat from free kicks and long-range efforts and could chip in with a few assists via crosses from deep and corner kicks.

Wales World Cup Prospects

With the experience of the past few Euros under their belts these players definitely aren’t there just to make up the numbers. They will want to get beyond the group and their opening game against the USA will be key to that. Should they win they will be in a great position to progress, as they should be able to navigate past Iran without any issues in game two. A final day show-down with England could determine who wins the group, however, with their potential last 16 opponents to be confirmed earlier that afternoon, perhaps finishing second might be more enticing depending on how things go in Group A.

Wales World Cup betting tips

Regardless of the result in opening game vs USA, Wales will need to win comfortably against Iran to have any realistic chance of getting through as second place could go down to goal difference. The pressure will need to be put on USA to outscore Wales on final day. HANDICAP BETTING: WALES -1 v IRAN

Wales World Cup Winner Odds

1500/1
Wales World Cup 2022 Winner

Wales’ World Cup 2022 Fixtures

November 21, 7pm: USA v Wales (ITV & S4C)

November 25, 10am: Wales v Iran (BBC & S4C)

November 29, 7pm: Wales v England (BBC & S4C)

CLICK BELOW FOR TEAM PREVIEWS ON WALES’ GROUP B RIVALS

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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