Gareth Bale returns as Wales look to end 57-year wait

Chris Coleman’s side lead Group B and need a point in Bosnia to secure place at Euros

A point against Bosnia would secure Wales a place at Euro 2016. Photograph: PA

A point against Bosnia would secure Wales a place at Euro 2016. Photograph: PA

 

Fit-again Gareth Bale will lead Wales into the cauldron of Bosnia’s Bilino Polje stadium in Zenica today as they aim to end a 57-year wait to qualify for a major tournament with a match to spare.

The Welsh, who lead Group B with 18 points from eight games, need one point from their last two fixtures to reach Euro 2016, with their final qualifier against Andorra in Cardiff on Tuesday.

The 1958 World Cup was their only previous appearance on the big stage and Bale made no secret of how excited they were at the prospect. “We have been working hard for many years to be in this position,” he said.

Manager Chris Coleman had been sweating on Bale’s fitness in recent weeks but the 26-year-old allayed fears he might be unavailable after coming on as a substitute in Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw at city rivals Atletico on Sunday.

“The calf is okay,” said Bale. “It was a nice 20 minutes to open it up and get the legs going.”

But even at full strength, the match against a Bosnia side desperately needing a win to keep alive their own hopes of qualifying will be a stern test for Wales.

The Bosnians, fourth in the group, 11 points behind second-placed Belgium (17) and third-placed Israel (13), are holding their breath as top scorer Edin Dzeko (26) faces a race against time to shake off a knee injury.

The AS Roma striker twisted his ligament in his team’s 5-1 Serie A win over Carpi on September 26th and though initially ruled out for up to six weeks, he has been included in Bosnia’s 25-man squad.

“Dzeko will train separately for two sessions and we expect him on the pitch on [Thursday] afternoon,” coach Mehmed Bazdarevic said. “We hope he will be ready for the match.”

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