Having once been more famous for a raft of great players never to have played in major championships (most notably Ryan Giggs), Wales have climbed out of the dark ages and emerged into the light with one of the world’s best players in their ranks. But is there more to this new Welsh national soccer team than Gareth Bale, and could they really spring a surprise at the European Championship and shock the world? Wales are certainly no upstarts when it comes to playing International football.
The Welsh Football Association was formed early, with Wales becoming the world's third-oldest football team when they played their first match against Scotland, which ended in a 4-0 Scotland victory! It got better from there, however, with Wales making it to the quarterfinals of the 1958 World Cup.
Wales made it to the 1976 European Championships and reached the last eight by finishing ahead of Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg in their group. But a two-leg defeat to Yugoslavia ended their hopes of going further, and Wales would have to wait for forty years to reach another major championship.
Under Mark Hughes, Wales came close to qualification for the Euro 2004 finals, but were narrowly defeated by Russia and missed out yet again. Gary Speed's tenure in charge of his country as manager is the most tragic period in Wales' football history. The former Leeds United captain got Wales desperately close to qualification for the Euros in 2012, and improved their international ranking from 117th to 45th, only to be found dead in his home, the victim of an apparent suicide just three weeks after Wales thrashed Norway 4-1 in a friendly.
Chris Coleman was given the job of finishing the great work Speed started and has taken on that mantle with admirable skill, guiding Wales to qualification for Euro 2016 with aplomb. With a team built around the guile and power of Wales' best player, Gareth Bale, the Welsh qualified out of the group along with Belgium.
Despite not having the experience of neighbors England or many other European nations, Wales will be a threat at the European Championships largely due to Bale and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey. They can surprise teams and we think they'll get out of their group (-150). From there, as they showed in qualification, they are a match for anyone on their day.
Who Does Wales National Team Play Next
Want to know who Wales are playing next? The latest odds and best value will often be very tempting for a side still underestimated by many countries.
Wales National Team Game Schedule
Wales will be a big part of the Euro Cup. Check back here for their full game schedule, including international friendlies in the build-up to their first major tournament for forty years.
Wales National Team Standings Today
Where do Wales stand in their Euro Group, which features England, Russia and Slovakia? Check out the latest standings right here.
How To Make Money Betting On Wales National Team
Wales are, at +5000, a very long shot to actually win Euro 2016, but they could easily surprise a few teams they play along the way, and aren't bad bets to get out of their group purely because of how their group schedule lines up.
Watch some of Wales' efforts in qualification and you can see why they are a massive threat to teams unprepared to supress their counter-attacking pace and power of Gareth Bale:
Wales play Slovakia first, where they should have plenty of impetus and the ability to get three points. Next is potentially the hardest game of their group in England, but as plenty of the Welsh squad ply their trade in the English leagues (and Gareth Bale regularly destroyed English teams defenses when he was part of the Premier League) anthing could happen.
Then, in the final group game, Wales play Russia which could effectively act as preparation for the knockout stage with the match likely to decide which team goes through with England.