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Wales has made history. Immmortality is the next step

Friday 1st September 2017
Wales face a crunch double-header against Austria and Moldova in 2018 World Cup qualification. To ensure their place in Welsh folklore, they must win.

It was wet and cold. The Welsh did not care. Wales lost. That was ignored. Instead, the players slide on their knees. Joe Ledley,ever the joker, does a belly slide. The travelling Welsh contingent is euphoric. Wales had lost 2-0, away to Bosnia. Yet, they had still qualified for their first major tournament in more than fifty years.

Fast forward a couple of months and the Dragons had done the unthinkable. A team outside the top 100 in the FIFA rankings a few years prior had reached a European Championship semifinal. Unprecedented success at a major tournament ensured every single Welsh player was written into the history books.
Yet, football lives by the motto, what have you done for me lately? Chris Coleman's side must move on from those magical scenes. They now sit third in Group D, four points off the Republic of Ireland and Serbia, joint top with 12 points.

Costly draws at home to Georgia and Serbia have left Wales chasing the pack. The Welsh are undefeated, but they are also winless in four.

If the team is to qualify, it must win all its remaining matches. Even then, it must bank on either the Irish or Serbians slipping up.

The nation believes in Coleman and his side, though. They have seen their team rise from the depths of footballing anonymity into heroes. It is time for more glorious moments, more come-from-behind performances.

Without Joe Allen on Saturday, Wales must see off Austria. The two countries are tied on the same points. Against a team facing the same challenge they do, the Dragons will find the going tough. Allen is instrumental to Coleman's tactics. He is the vital cog in a well-geared machine. His loss is enormous. Others must step up. With 33,000 Welsh men and women roaring them on, inspiration should not be hard to come by.
If Wales can book their place in Russia 2018, they will surely be immortalised. It will be the confirmation that last summer was not just a one-off; Welsh fans realise that such success was the product of a lot of hard work, but others may still see it as a lucky run, ignorant to the foundations put in place by Coleman.

A win against Austria is a challenge. Victory over Moldova in midweek should be a formality. In October, the Welsh travel to Tbilisi. The Georgians outperformed Wales when they visited Cardiff. Still, Coleman will need to win. The final game of the group brings the Irish to Cardiff. If Wales can win the previous three, it will surely be a deciding match at the City Stadium.

The next four games are so, so important. If Wales fail to achieve their potential as regulars at elite tournaments, the current crop of players will still be regarded as legends, but tragic heroes rather than immortals. This is the same team that shocked the world. One would think they can do it again.

Four crucial games to cement their legacy. One opportunity to become eternal heroes in Welsh footballing history.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97


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