- Wales have moved above England in the FIFA world rankings
- Chris Coleman’s side are on the brink of Euro 2016 qualification
- A win against Israel on Sunday will be enough guarantee place in France
- Coleman would welcome the opportunity to face England in a friendly
Laurie Whitwell for The Mail on Sunday
Chris Coleman has welcomed calls for Wales to face England before next summer’s European Championships to find out which nation really is best of British.
Wales are above England in the FIFA rankings for the first time in history and manager Coleman would like to test his team against Roy Hodgson’s side, who he called a juggernaut of the international game.
Wales are ninth in the global table, but will incredibly go at least fourth with a win over Israel on Sunday, as well as confirming qualification for France 2016. Just four years ago Wales fell to 117th, sandwiched in between Haiti and Grenada. England are currently 10th.
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Wales manager Chris Coleman would welcome the opportunity to come up against England
Gareth Bale appeared in high spirits as Wales gear up for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel
‘All of us would love to play England because they are a great team, a juggernaut in world football and I am sure if there’s a chance to have a friendly we would be right up for it,’ said Coleman.
‘A lot has been said about going above England in the rankings, who are a great team. But the rankings won’t get us to France. We can have a quiet smile, of course, but my mind is on France.’
Wales last played England in September 2011, losing 1-0 to an Ashley Young goal at Wembley in a Euro qualifier. Before that England won 2-0 at the Millennium Stadium and it was the same outcome in both the qualifying games for the 2006 World Cup. Wales have not beaten England since May 1984, when Mark Hughes scored the winner on his debut at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.
Should both countries reach Euro 2016 without the need for the play-offs, friendlies are expected to be organised for November, with Wales previously exploring the possibility of inviting Argentina for a glamour encounter at the Millennium.
England have confirmed a friendly with Germany next March, but slots will still be open in the build-up to the finals. Cliff Jones, the Wales and Spurs wing wizard who went to the 1958 World Cup, believes Coleman’s team have enough to beat Hodgson’s men, with Gareth Bale the defining factor.
Bale and his Wales team-mates took to the Cardiff City Stadium turf for one last training session
Wales will take on Israel on Sunday as they look to qualify for next year’s Euro 2016 Championship
‘Wales would beat England if they played tomorrow,’ said Jones. ‘They are such a team. They know their positions, they have confidence, and they have outstanding players — Gareth in particular.’
Jones, 80, will be at the Cardiff City Stadium for the Israel clash and predicts an atmosphere like no other with Wales on the brink of ending a 58-year-wait for tournament action. ‘I’m with them all the way singing Land of My Fathers. I’ll be there as a very proud Welshman,’ Jones said.
Israel provided the opposition as Wales last reached a major finals. Jones played in the play-off against them, scoring in the home leg to ensure a place at the World Cup in Sweden.
Real Madrid attacker Bale shows off his ball skills as his fellow Wales team-mates watch on in Cardiff
Chris Coleman watches over his side as he puts them through their paces ahead of their Israel clash
Wales manager Coleman gives his team a talk during a training session on Saturday in Cardiff
‘It has brought back memories,’ he said. ‘The team is very similar. There is a good spirit, with all different characters. They are all mates and they take that out on the field. You think about all those years ago when we qualified for the World Cup and since then, really we have been unlucky. We will qualify. Israel will not stand in our way.’
Jones watched on TV as Bale’s thumping header beat Cyprus 1-0 in midweek. ‘Never mind Cristiano Ronaldo, it was a John Charles-type header,’ he said. ‘He’s getting there, but he has more to do to be called the greatest Welsh player,’ said Jones. ‘John Charles and Ivor Allchurch are a bit beyond Gareth at the moment.
Leading Wales to deep into the finals may alter that view.
‘They could possibly win it,’ added Jones. ‘They are only going to improve. Most of our 1958 team have passed away now, but against Israel they will be up above us looking down saying, “Go on boys”.’
VICTORY AGAINST ISRAEL CAN BANISH THESE MEMORIES
Wales need just win to qualify for a first major tournament since 1958. They host Israel tonight and with a match at home to Andorra still to come, a place at France 2016 is near certain, and will banish the memories of these near misses.
A good start and a memorable 2-1 victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium. But defeat away to Serbia and Montenegro saw the wheels come off, and a team that included Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed, John Hartson, Robbie Savage, and Craig Bellamy lost 4-0 in Italy. Wales clung on to runners-up spot but lost the play-off against Russia.
World Cup 1994
A win against Romania, led by Gheorghe Hagi, in the final game would see Wales qualify for USA 94. Hagi scored, Dean Saunders levelled and then Paul Bodin hit the bar with a penalty. Florin Raducioiu scored a late winner.
World Cup 1986
Victory against Scotland at Ninian Park would see Wales in Mexico 86. On the night Jock Stein tragically collapsed, Mark Hughes gave the hosts a lead but with 10 minutes left Scotland substitute Davie Cooper scored a penalty and Wales missed out on goal difference.
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