Wales could move one step closer to qualifying for a major international tournament for the first time since 1958 if they beat Cyprus away in Nicosia.
Chris Coleman’s side currently top Group B with 14 points from six matches, and are five points clear of Israel in third place, who they host at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday evening. With Cyprus also on nine points in fourth, and having to play Israel away in October, Wales know that a win on Thursday would all but secure their place in at least the top 3 of a group that sees the top five sides only separated by five points.
Last time the two sides met in Cyprus, the home side ran out 3-1 winners back in 2007. The Welsh side since then has changed massively though, with the most recent FIFA rankings having Coleman’s team in ninth place, some 71 places above their opponents. Star man Gareth Bale is his country’s top scorer in qualifying with five goals in six games, and the Real Madrid attacker is 23/20 to score any time in the match.
Fans of British football may only be familiar with one of the current Cyprus squad; new Walsall signing Jason Demetriou, who also played over 100 games for Leyton Orient between 2006-10. Their last fixture was a less than convincing 3-1 win away at Andorra, with the minnows going ahead after two minutes through a Dossa Junior own goal. Junior also missed a penalty in that game to compound a fairly miserable evening for the defender, despite the victory. However, if you fancy the Konyaspor defender to find the right goal this time out, he is 15/2 to score in 90 minutes.
With 20 of the 23 man Welsh squad playing in the English leagues, there are familiar faces throughout the squad. They are however without Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, who faces a one match suspension due to accumulating three yellow cards in his four games played. A number of potential debutants make up the squad, with a pair of Liverpool youngsters, Danny Ward and Jordan Williams (on loan at Aberdeen and Swindon respectively) amongst four who could earn a maiden bow in international football.
Hal Robson-Kanu missed the first national training session after picking up an injury in his club side Reading’s 3-1 victory over Brentford last weekend, while defender James Chester is also carrying a hamstring injury ahead of the match on Thursday. Either Sam Vokes or Simon Church are likely to take the place of Robson-Kanu if he misses out, and the two strikers are currently 13/8 and 7/4 respectively to score in Nicosia.Bet now!