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What Went Wrong in Wales' World Cup Qualification Campaign?

Wales' World Cup dreams were left lying in tatters at the beginning of October after they were beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland and many Welsh fans believed it was a missed opportunity for Chris Coleman's side. After reaching the semifinals of Euro 2016, supporters were quietly confident that they could seal qualification to just their third major tournament but Martin O'Neill's side put an end to those hopes with a defensively sound display. Where did it all go wrong for Coleman's men?

Coleman and Roberts

Source: BBC Sport via Twitter

Injuries didn't help their cause with Gareth Bale nursing a calf injury for a number of crucial ties towards the end of the qualifying campaign and whilst Coleman was keen to stress that his side are far from a 'one-man team', the absence of an unpredictable and hugely talented player cannot be overlooked. Joe Allen also left the field halfway through the first 45 after suffering a blow to the head against Ireland and being forced to reshuffle did not aid their quest.

There is a temptation to point the finger at Coleman for bringing Jonny Williams into the number ten position thus pushing the excellent Aaron Ramsey further back which appeared to nullify the Arsenal man's creativity. The presence of the Gunners midfielder in that position is hugely important to Wales' game-plan, as proven by his absence at Euro 2016 against Portugal and a number of fans believe that their side could have hit back had he been allowed to roam further forward. Ramsey has also played a major role in his club's resurgence throughout November as they clocked up successive victories against Spurs, Burnley and Huddersfield. Their win and clean sheet against the Terriers was particularly eye-catching and was one of the recommended football betting tips as Ramsey's side continue to march up the Premier League table.

Wales were handed a straightforward looking group with Austria, Serbia, Moldova, Georgia and the Republic of Ireland alongside them in group D but they couldn't capitalise on this seemingly favourable section. Too many draws early on in the qualification campaign can be attributed to their failure. A below-par performance in Cardiff against Georgia is one result which particularly grates with fans becoming frustrated after watching their side surrender the lead and almost hand all three points to their opponents. Georgia picked up just three draws on their travels during the entire qualifying campaign and those additional two points would have sent Wales through to the playoffs at the expense of Martin O'Neill's side.

Perhaps the hangover from Euro 2016 can be blamed but the slow start didn't help and by the time that Wales had clicked into top gear, they had left it far too late.

Woodburn

Source: Linked LFC via Twitter

Despite the occasional criticism of his tactics, Coleman leaves behind a terrific legacy and his successor will have plenty to build upon. The Swansea-born boss has departed to return to club football taking over struggling Sunderland in the Championship. A number of players such as Ben Woodburn and Tom Lawrence have broken into the side and offer plenty of hope for the future of Welsh football. Many of these players still have plenty more to give and they are extremely likely to bounce back from the bitter disappointment of missing out on the World Cup 2018.

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