Wales set to be in top seeding group for 2018 World Cup draw

Wales fans celebrate with goal-scorer Gareth Bale in the win over Belgium
Wales celebrate Gareth Bale's winner against Belgium

Wales' 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win over Belgium in Cardiff on Friday saw them move closer to a first major finals since 1958.

But the victory could also see Chris Coleman's side enter the top 10 in the Fifa rankings for the first time.

It will almost certainly put Wales among the top seeds when the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw is made in July.

"We're in pot one for the World Cup and the rankings are very healthy, the best we've ever been," Coleman said.

Belgium were ranked second in the world before the match at Cardiff City Stadium, which was settled by Gareth Bale's 17th goal for Wales.

Euro 2016 top of my list - Bale

Coleman's side were ranked 22nd, but the points gained from the win will see them climb the order under Fifa's coefficient system when the new rankings are published on 9 July.

If England fail to beat Slovenia in their Euro 2016 qualifier on Sunday, Wales could be ranked above Roy Hodgson's side for the first time in their history.

Being among the top seeds when the draw for Russia 2018 is made in St Petersburg on 25 July will see Wales avoid the likes of Germany, Spain, Netherlands, France and England in their pool.

In March 2011 Wales were as low as 116th, and in the last World Cup qualifying campaign they were bottom seeds alongside countries such as San Marino, Andorra and Luxembourg.

Coleman became Wales boss in January 2012 following the death of former manager Gary Speed.

The former Fulham and Coventry manager lost his first four matches in charge before a 2-1 win over Scotland.

"It is astonishing," Coleman said.

"We've been chipping away at it for a long time and my staff are absolutely fantastic, they work so hard when we're in camp.

How do you qualify for Euro 2016?
There are nine groups and the top two from each will book a Euro 2016 spot, accounting for 18 of the 24 places.
The third-placed side with the most points (discarding those earned against the team finishing sixth in groups as one group has five teams) will also make it.
This leaves eight other teams who have finished third in a group to play off over two legs to provide another four sides.
So that's 23, while France qualify automatically as hosts.

"So what we've got to do is not play it down, let's not say we've been here before - we know that - this is our own journey and in many ways we're trailblazing.

"We've never been so high in the rankings, we're top of the group six games in - 12 points to play for, two games at home, two games away - anybody can do the maths so we've just got to keep marching on."

With Euro 2016 expanded to 24 teams, the top two sides in each qualifying group are automatically assured of their places, while there are additional spots for the best third-placed team and eight play-off winners.

Wales have 14 points from their six games in Group B, which gives them a three-point lead over Belgium and a five-point advantage over Israel and Cyprus.

Coleman's men would all-but seal their place at the tournament in France by beating Cyprus and Israel in their September double-header.

Wales finish with games away to Bosnia-Hercegovina and home to Andorra in October.

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