Euro 2016: Wales will qualify with a point in Bosnia

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has scored six goals in Wales' Euro 2016 qualifying campaign
Euro 2016 qualifiers: Wales v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Venue: Stadion Bilino Polje, Zenica Date: Saturday, 10 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online

Wales are so close to qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals in France they can almost smell the croissants.

Manager Chris Coleman's men go into the final Group B qualifiers - away to Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica on 10 October and against Andorra, on 13 October - knowing just a point will guarantee them a place at a major finals for the first time since 1958.

Last month's 0-0 draw with Israel ruined the qualification party plans for that day in Cardiff but, after 57 years of waiting, another few weeks won't hurt...will it?

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The wait goes on

Victory against Israel would have secured qualification and a sense of expectation engulfed the Cardiff City Stadium on a fair-weather day made for partying.

Andy King goes close with a header against Israel
Wales were held to a goalless draw by Israel in September's qualifier in Cardiff

In the hours that followed the draw with Israel, there was another scenario so typical of Wales' footballing history, littered with near-misses.

Welsh fans had expectations lifted again as, with growing excitement, they watched Belgium toil to break down Cyprus in Nicosia.

If Cyprus had drawn or beaten Belgium, Wales would have qualified that day.

Again Wales' hopes were thwarted. Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard scored with just four minutes to go to give Belgium a 1-0 win over Cyprus.

Some fans would have felt that this would have been an anticlimactic way to make it in any case. Captain Ashley Williams and his players probably would not have complained.

Wales qualification permutations

Still, Wales remain on top of Group B with two games to go. They have already guaranteed themselves at least third place - and probably a play-off spot - if everything should fall apart.

At the start of the group, reaching the play-offs was to many the height of ambition. Now it would be a dismal consolation.

The others

Israel's celebrations after the goalless draw in Cardiff not only underlined the progress made by Wales, but also their continued ambition to book a place in the finals for the very first time.

Third spot looks more realistic for Israel, but Bosnia are breathing down their necks, just two points behind.

Group favourites Belgium should guarantee their qualification spot while Wales are in Bosnia because they play pointless Andorra.

Anything but an overwhelming win against Andorra would be a cataclysmic surprise, and Belgium's last game is at home to Israel.

Group B

Bale boost

Gareth Bale's calf has dominated the build-up to the finishing straight facing Wales, and it will be a relief for Coleman to know the Real Madrid forward has recovered and is available for the two final group matches.

The Welsh squad has a wonderful collective spirit and camaraderie. Yet they know Bale is special. Coleman knows it, too.

It's a lift every time he turns up. And Coleman seems in no mood to compromise. There is no thought of protecting the talisman by wrapping him in cotton wool for the Zenica clash and keeping him for Andorra.

Maybe Coleman is mindful of the flak he took for taking Bale to Macedonia in 2013 and keeping him on the bench.

Bosnia are a challenge for Wales

Wales have never beaten Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In three encounters their only reward was in 2003 as John Hartson and Rob Earnshaw scored for Wales in a 2-2 draw at the Millenium Stadium.

In 2012, Wales were beaten 2-0 in a friendly at Parc y Scarlets before Bosnia returned last October for a 0-0 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Bosnia started this group as top seeds. They cannot make second place but are scrambling for third and the reward of a play-off.

In last October's goalless draw, Everton's Muhamed Besic did an excellent man-marking job on Bale while Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko - now on loan at Roma - was a constant threat.

Edin Dzeko
Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko is the joint third highest scorer in the Euro qualifiers so far with seven goals

Besic is suspended for the final two Bosnian qualifiers after a red card against Andorra, but Dzeko could give coach Mehmed Bazdarevic a huge lift by overcoming the knee injury that initially looked to have ruled him out.

Bosnia's plan will be to finish the group with victory over Wales and a revenge triumph away in Cyprus, and hope that is enough for third spot.

Bosnia would also be quite happy to see Israel and Cyprus take points off each other before travelling to Nicosia.

Satisfaction guaranteed

Andorra are 205th out of 209 in football's world rankings - just behind Somalia and a place in front of Djibouti.

Yes, they did lead Wales 1-0 on their own patch in the opening qualifier of this section in September 2014, before Bale's brace ensured normality - and Coleman did not have to think about seeking alternative employment. Wales scrambled a 2-1 win on a horrible pitch.

The rest, as they say, is history. Coleman is now correctly lauded for an almost flawless campaign.

And whatever happens in Zenica, the final qualifier against Andorra at Cardiff City Stadium will surely be a joyous climax to the group as Wales officially end a 57-year wait to qualify for a major tournament.

Yes, make a note of the day - 13 October.

Andorra will know it well. Their only competitive victory was on 13 October, 2004 when they beat Macedonia, 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier in front of 350 people.

Macedonia coach Dragi Kanatlarovski, whose side had held the Netherlands in their previous game, called it a "shameful outcome and humiliation". He then resigned.

Shocks happen in football, but surely lightning won't strike twice for the minnows on the same date.

And Wales are clearly hoping to get the job done in Bosnia to ensure there is little or no pressure on the game with Andorra.

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