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World Cup Qualifier Preview – Wales vs. Moldova

Wales play their opening World Cup Qualifier at the Cardiff City Stadium against Moldova this Monday, with talisman Gareth Bale making clear that the players are focused on the upcoming campaign, having got their successful run at Euro 2016 “out of their system”.

Chris Coleman’s men impressed on their way to the semi-finals, bowing out in a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal, but not before registering impressive wins over Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium.

They will not find qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958 an easy task, however, with Austria, Serbia and the Republic of Ireland among the other sides battling to make it out of Group D.

Monday night’s opponents Moldova have never qualified for an international tournament, finishing dead last in their qualifying group for Euro 2016 with only two points. They have only crossed paths with Wales on two previous occasions, winning once in 1994 before losing the reverse fixture in 1995.

Wales will be without playmaker Aaron Ramsey, the Arsenal midfielder suffering from a hamstring complaint, while Ipswich signing Jonny Williams also misses out with an ankle injury. Chris Coleman’s squad looks top-heavy as he attempts to find room for his attacking players, and the Dragons’ hero against Belgium, Hal Robson-Kanu, now of West Brom, will vie with Sam Vokes, Simon Church and Sam Vokes to start at centre-forward, supported by Gareth Bale.

Wales are obvious favourites to claim the victory, priced at 1/4 with the vast majority of bookmakers, while Betfred and William Hill offer best odds of 2/7. It is a brave man who would bet against Wales to win in Monday night’s fixture, but the courageous can put a few pounds on Moldova at best odds of 16/1, courtesy of Bet365 and Paddy Power.

There are also few surprises to be found in the scoring markets. Gareth Bale has found the back of the net 22 times in his 61 appearances, and is 5/2 to add to his tally as the game’s first goal scorer with Betvictor and Coral. Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu are both 7/2 notch the first goal with Stan James and Ladbrokes.

Bale has built a reputation for scoring long-range screamers from his time at Tottenham, and William Hill have him at 4/1 to score from outside the penalty area, while Sam Vokes, who scored a spectacular header to see Wales through against Belgium at Euro 2016, comes at 11/1 to do the same.

32-year-old Igor Bugaev is Moldova’s biggest hope of beating Danny Ward in the Wales goal, priced at 9/2 by Skybet to score at anytime.

Tom Lewis
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