Having made only one appearance at the FIFA World Cup™, Wales have been looking to make their second trip for more than 50 years. A mixture of poor displays and tough draws has seen qualification become something of a distant goal since the turn of the millennium. However, plucky performances in both Germany and Russia in the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup will give them confidence, and a favourable draw in their group could see them fighting for a ticket on the plane to Brazil.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Wales’ only appearance at the FIFA World Cup was in 1958 at Sweden, where they reached the quarter-finals, being led by Juventus star John Charles. Having negotiated a tough group containing the hosts, 1954 runners-up Hungary and Mexico – courtesy of a comeback play-off win over The Magical Magyars - they met Brazil. Despite holding out for seventy minutes thanks to goalkeeping heroics from Jack Kelsey, a deflected goal from a 17-year-old Pele saw the eventual champions progress.
The current crop
A mix of burgeoning brilliance amongst their young ranks and well-seasoned stalwarts has given Welsh fans a new sense of optimism ahead of qualification for 2014. This certainly seems to be the beginning of a new era for the team.
The key players
With Craig Bellamy now on the fringes of the Welsh set-up, all eyes have shifted to the young talent littering the team. Gareth Bale has set the Premier League and UEFA Champions League alight, winning the PFA Player of the Year for 2010/11, and will form the major crux of Wales’s attack.
Newly appointed captain Aaron Ramsey, their youngest ever, will aim to lead by example with confident passing and drive, hoping his energy will spread throughout the team.
Wayne Hennessey is a goalkeeper who performs well for the team. Having made his debut at 20 and still an integral part of the squad four years later, the side will be looking to him for stability.
Current coach: Chris Coleman
Best performance in a FIFA competiton: FIFA World Cup Sweden 1958 (Quarter-finals)
Former stars: John Charles, Neville Southall, Ryan Giggs