A ground-breaking European Championships certainly gave Wales plenty to cheer this summer, but a trip to the semi-finals in France also sent expectations skyward. In their first outing since the semi-final defeat to Portugal, the Dragons definitely looked capable of matching them.
Anticipation of a comfortable victory over Moldova at the Cardiff City Stadium was just the latest clue that the perception of Chris Coleman’s squad had changed.
Their Fifa world ranking rose from 26 before the Euros, to 11 after the tournament. They then opened as favourites to win World Cup-qualifying Group D, despite sharing the mini league with Austria – who booked a place at the Euros having gone unbeaten in 10 games – Serbia and Republic of Ireland.
We made them 1/4 jollies to better Moldova and slim 6/4 chances to score three or more goals. That they bagged four and reduced the contest to little more than a training match shows how unfazed they are with their new-found status.
“We’re starting the beginning of a campaign against a team we’re expected to beat at home, so it was a different challenge for us. But the boys answered all the questions,” Coleman said post match.
If his side continue to solve this campaign’s riddles as emphatically, a first World Cup appearance since 1958 will be the reward.
The next puzzle to solve is a trip to Austria next month, making now the time to invest in Wales’ 15/8 odds of topping their group.
Already shortened from 2/1 following their Moldovan rout, the Dragons will surely fall below evens should they come away from Vienna with three points.
And with Gareth Bale’s capacity to inspire greatness showing no let up, a road win against Das Team is far from unfathomable.
The Real Madrid man scored two and set up another in Cardiff, taking his international tally to 24 strikes and moving him four behind Ian Rush as the country’s top scorer.
Coleman expects the former Tottenham man to surpass the Liverpool icon during this campaign, and we all know how Welshmen deal with expectations.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.