Wales World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

Wales World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections article feature image

Pictured: Gareth Bale.

  • Wales heads to the World Cup with an opening match against the US.
  • Will Gareth Bale be able to lead them through to the knockout stage?
  • Read on for projections, a schedule, roster analysis and more.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Wales ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Wales World Cup Preview

It's possible that we overlook just how important continuity and commitment are when it comes to handicapping international soccer tournaments — and Wales are a perfect case study.

After years in the wilderness, the Dragons wrote a fairytale story at Euro 2016 when Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey propelled them to the semifinals, where they lost to the eventual winners, Portugal. Wales won their group with wins over Slovakia and Russia, then defeated Northern Ireland and Belgium to make it to the Final Four. 

Five years later, Wales again surprised at the European Championships, making it to the knockout rounds by going 1-1-1 with a win over Turkey, a draw against Switzerland and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy. The Dragons would get pasted 4-0 in the Round of 16, but the hard feelings didn't linger, as they finished the group stage of World Cup Qualifying with a draw against Belgium to earn a playoff with Austria. Wales defeated Austria and then Ukraine to qualify for their second-ever World Cup and their first since 1958. It was bedlam in Cardiff.

Chances To…Action Projectionsbet365 Odds
Win Group Stage8.78%+600
Advance To Knockout Round37.91%+110
Win World Cup0.30%+20000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

Everything with Wales begins and ends with Gareth Bale. At the height of his powers, Bale was one of the world's best attacking players. He's well past his best days now and his commitment to club football has been called into question, but the 33-year-old always seems to save his best for the Dragons.

Bale's supporting cast, which still includes mainstays from 2016 like Ramsey and Joe Allen, might be lacking in starpower, but Wales' best asset is their commitment and chemistry. That can make them hard to beat and a threat to pull off an upset against a team like, say, England, but it's also not going to be enough for this team to realistically make a deep run. The ceiling for Wales is that they will provide a couple of big moments and perhaps sneak into the knockout stages, and frankly, that's enough for a team that is making their first trip to the World Cup since 1958.

There is genuine belief that this story doesn't just end with a ticket to Qatar. Drawn into a group with their eternal rivals, England, the USA and Iran, it's really a coin flip on whether or not Wales will advance. In all likelihood, Wales will need a result from their opener on Nov. 21 to get through, but they also caught a break by avoiding England until the last match of the round robin. It's a manageable draw for the Dragons.

Wales have shown that their style of play and chemistry make them a tough out in these formats. If the World Cup was played over the course of six months and teams played 20 games, the Dragons would eventually be doomed by their lack of talent and depth. But in a short format, where four points is usually enough to get you through to the Round of 16, all bets are off.

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Key Player: Gareth Bale

Make no mistake, even at 33 years of age and well past the peak of his powers, Bale is the main man for Wales and still has the skill set to wreck a game.

He has only played 17 matches for his clubs (Real Madrid, LAFC) since the beginning of last season, but that's mostly because he's made no secret that his No. 1 focus right now is to be fresh and in-form for the World Cup. 

A pacey winger who can run at defenders and create space all around him by taking on opponents, the Wales attack will run through, and rely on, the magic in Bale's left foot. He can create goals from nowhere, whether it be via set pieces or a run down the flank, and he will need to do just that for Wales to make noise. 

Tactical Analysis

Wales are a classic international soccer underdog. They'll typically set up in a defensive posture, like a 4-4-2, and do everything they can to hang around in a contest and hope that a moment of magic from Gareth Bale or one of their attacking players can be the difference.

It might not be the most exciting brand of play to watch for a neutral, but it does provide the Dragons with their best path to success. This is a well-drilled, cohesive unit that demands every player know and embrace their role. Nobody, outside of Bale and maybe Daniel James, will go off-script on this team. 

And this team can certainly punch up as an underdog. A spine that features Kieffer Moore as the target man, Ethan Ampadu and Allen as the central midfielders and Ben Davies plus Joe Rodon as the center backs is not going to leap off the page at you, but it won't be fun to play against at all. These are players that are well-versed in grinding out 1-0 and 2-1 results.

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Wales World Cup Schedule

USA2 p.m. ET, Nov. 21
Iran5 a.m. ET, Nov. 25
England2 p.m. ET, Nov. 29

Most Recent World Cup Result

Quarterfinals (1958)

The last time Wales got past World Cup Qualifying and into the Finals was in 1958. It was also the only time that Wales has reached this stage of the tournament. Wales fell to eventual champions Brazil in the quarterfinals, 1-0.

Wales World Cup Roster

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