AFTER a brilliant Euro 2016 can Wales continue to improve? CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at their qualifier against Moldova on Monday night.
Wales v Moldova | Monday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
It was an incredible summer for Wales as they confounded all expectation to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016. That achievement is on a par with England reaching the same round in the 1990 and 1996 major tournaments so should never be taken lightly.
Next up for Chris Coleman’s men is a horrible World Cup qualifying group. The Welsh have been drawn in the same section as Euro 2016 flops Austria, the very exciting Serbia, Ireland and an awkward Georgia side that beat Scotland in the Euro qualifiers.
The final team in the group is the bottom seeds Moldova and that’s who Wales face on Monday night. The Moldovans had a poor time in Euro qualifying where they failed to win any of their matches and lost eight of their 10 games. The only positive was a surprising draw in Russia that spelt the end of the Fabio Capello era.
Rewind the clock back to the previous campaign though and they were a far more impressive outfit as they took 11 points from their 10 matches in a group won by England.
Two wins over San Marino were certainly expected but a 5-2 win over Montenegro and home draws against Poland and Ukraine made us all sit up and take note.
As a football romantic I find it quite sad the Moldovans seemed to regress between these two campaigns but that will be of no concern to Welsh fans on Monday night.
Since the end of the Euro qualifiers things have improved for Moldova though. The former Soviet nation have played five friendlies and as well as a win over Andorra, they also drew against Malta and lost by just one goal to Croatia, Switzerland and Azerbaijan.
Wales go into this game strong 1/4 favourites as you’d expect and that’s probably around the right price but I just wonder about their motivation for this game.
Getting to the semi-finals at the Euros was a massive achievement and the highs of those summer nights will seem a far cry from the meat-and-potatoes match they face here.
Surprise semi-finalists tend to struggle in the following competition. Sweden finished third in their Euro 96 qualifying group after reaching the USA 94 semi-finals and Turkey were knocked in the play-offs by Latvia in Euro 2004 after excelling in Asia in 2002. A note of caution there.
Wales struggled to break down Andorra in their opening fixture of the Euro qualifiers and something similar could occur here. I’ll back Draw/Wales in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at 3/1 with Betway and back the 6/5 with Stan James on the 2nd half being the highest scoring half.
Wales v Moldova – Second Half Highest Scoring Half (6/5 Stan James)
Wales v Moldova – Draw/Wales (3/1 Betway)