Euro 2016: How two wins in four days could make history for Wales

Chris Coleman and Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is central to Wales manager Chris Coleman's qualification hopes
Euro 2016 qualifiers: Cyprus v Wales
Venue: GSP Stadium, Nicosia Kick-off: 19:45 BST, Thursday, 3 September
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and online.

Fever-pitch excitement surrounds Gareth Bale and the rest as Wales are on the brink of appearing at their first major tournament finals since 1958.

But, in the week of Euro 2016 qualifying matches away against Cyprus on Thursday, 3 September and Israel at home on Sunday, 6 September, the big question appears to be - will it take four days or four games?

Why 20 is the magic number

After their rousing 1-0 win over Group B favourites Belgium in Cardiff, the initial target for captain Ashley Williams and co is 20 points.

Two wins in four days this week would take Wales to that tally and would send them through as one of two automatic qualifiers.

Wales play Cyprus on Thursday and a win in Nicosia would set up the chance of a qualification party at Cardiff City Stadium against Israel on Sunday.

Twenty points is the magic number because although Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina can both make that total, Wales would still qualify courtesy of their better head-to-head record against the Belgians.

Even a draw in Nicosia might be enough if Belgium beat Bosnia on the same night Wales play Cyprus, although that would keep the Cypriots and probably Israel in the hunt.

Wales very much hold their fate in their own hands, but there are still reasons to be wary.

Chris Coleman
Chris Coleman never reached a major finals as a Wales player

Wales beat Cyprus 2-1 in Cardiff last October when goals from David Cotterill and Hal Robson-Kanu helped Chris Coleman's team overcome Andy King's sending-off.

Cyprus lie fourth in the table and are not out of the chase for a top-two place.

This week will surely define the rest of their campaign because they host Group B's top two in Wales and Belgium.

Coach Charalambos Christodoulou and his team dare not squander these opportunities.

Wales' remaining Euro 2016 qualifiers
3 Sep 2015: Cyprus (a)10 Oct 2015: Bosnia-Herzegovina (a)
6 Sep 2015: Israel (h)13 Oct 2015: Andorra (h)

It's easy to see why a trip to the Mediterranean will be no holiday for Coleman and his team.

Wales have lost on their last two trips to Cyprus - both suffered during John Toshack's reign.

They were beaten 1-0 in Limassol in a 2005 friendly and two years later in Nicosia slumped to a poor 3-1 defeat.

John Toshack

Toshack was not amused. His uncharacteristically abrupt news conference afterwards prompted speculation he might quit before the second game of a European Championship double-header, in San Marino.

He stayed. But on the eve of the San Marino match, the Wales boss produced a tirade against pampered footballers, including this memorable passage:

"Another five star hotel boys, here we are in Rimini now.

"Look out the window, if the waves are making a noise in the evening, just phone down and we'll see if we can move you over to one of the rooms on the other side of the hotel."

Coleman will hope there is no need for such strong words after Cyprus this time.

Gareth Bale celebrates
Gareth Bale celebrates as Wales beat Belgium in June

Bosnia bounce

Bosnia-Herzegovina were ranked top seeds in Group B at the original draw, but coach Safet Sufic was sacked after a dismal start.

New coach Mehmed Bazdarevic made an immediate impact. An Edin Dzeko hat-trick gave Bazderavic a debut win against Andorra before a 3-1 victory over Israel - to move within a point of Israel and Cyprus.

Belgium are smarting after their defeat in Cardiff, but such is the strength of their squad they will still have eyes on overhauling Wales.

Bosnia's revival could become a surge if they were to win in Brussels and their second game this week is against Andorra - their hopes could be transformed in a week.

Just in case

Of course, Welsh fans will be hoping the party can start after Israel.

But the Uefa fixture planners have provided an insurance policy of sorts if things go awry this month.

The final Group B qualifiers are in October, with Wales' trip to Bosnia on 10 October and their final encounter at home to Andorra on 13 October.

If Bosnia are still in contention, the trip to Zenica will not be easy. What's more Welsh sports fans may already have their nerves frayed that day.

Hours before Coleman's men go into battle on 10 October, the Wales rugby team will play Australia in their final World Cup group game.

It could be the last-chance saloon for Warren Gatland's men, but Coleman's charges have a major insurance policy. Andorra are among the 10 weakest teams in the world.

Even though Wales needed a Bale rescue act to beat Andorra 2-1 in the opening game of the group, they could hardly have a more favourable fall-back should they still need more points to get over the line.

The match is already a Cardiff City Stadium sell-out. Hopefully the need for points will not get in the way of a good time.

Bellamy the bravest

It took Craig Bellamy to calm the nerves and utter the words many Welsh fans feel they dare not speak.

The inspirational former Wales captain told BBC Wales Sport he is "100% sure" this squad will qualify for the Euro 2016 finals.

There have been plenty of near-misses in the past, seemingly from positions of strength.

But Bellamy is blunt in his analysis of the last-gasp failures that have afflicted Welsh football - the teams were not good enough.

He contends even the Mark Hughes squad which featured him and other big Welsh names such as Ryan Giggs, John Hartson and Garry Speed was not strong enough to progress.

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Wales team ‘best in my lifetime’ - Bellamy

In contrast, Bellamy now says: "We have a squad with individually talented players, some of the best players we have ever seen in a Welsh shirt."

Significantly Bellamy also says he thinks Welsh football will grow once the national team overcomes the hurdle of reaching a major tournament finals for the first time since 1958.

"If we could just qualify, football will take off and it won't look back.

"Because I feel the World Cup will be another level again, this country will never look back and we will start producing even more players that are really quality due to Cardiff doing well and Swansea being brilliant.

"We could be a football nation for the next 20 or 30 years - a really strong football nation - which is something we all want."

Bellamy was always up for the challenge. Now its up to the current Wales squad to fulfil his brave words.

And how appropriate if it happened this week. When John Charles and his Wales squad reached the World Cup finals in 1958, they had to beat Israel to get there.

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