Wales made to wait

Gareth Bale (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale (Getty Images)

Cardiff - Wales will have to wait a little while longer to seal qualification for its first major tournament in 58 years.

A victory over Israel on Sunday would have guaranteed Wales an automatic spot at next year's European Championship, but the match finished 0-0 in Cardiff.

The unbeaten Welsh still could have qualified had Belgium failed to beat Cyprus hours later. Yet there was more frustration for Gareth Bale's side, with Eden Hazard's 86th-minute goal earning the Belgians a scrappy 1-0 win.

Wales remained in a very strong position to reach its first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, requiring just one point from an away match against Bosnia-Herzegovina or at home to Andorra.

Andorra has lost all eight of its qualifiers so far, conceding 30 goals in the process, and 52 competitive matches in a row.

"We wanted to get it done and dusted today," Wales captain Ashley Williams said. "But we have two more games and it's still on us."

Wales leads Belgium by a point, with Israel four points further back in third. Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Andorra 3-0 to trim the gap to Israel to two points with two rounds of games left.

For a country that has squandered a number of great chances to end its wait for a major tournament — notably in 1985, 1993 and 2003 — this will go down as another missed opportunity for Wales and the frustration was evident at fulltime.

There was almost late drama when Wales substitute Simon Church headed the ball into the net with seconds left in stoppage time, but it was ruled out for offside.

Two years ago, the Football Association of Wales was giving away tickets for national-team matches. But the Welsh public has reconnected with the football team during its stunning rise to No. 9 in the world rankings under manager Chris Coleman and the Cardiff City Stadium was sold out and rocking for the country's biggest match in a decade.

And home fans should have been celebrating early on, with midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Andy Ramsey squandering decent chances.

Bale was kept quiet, except for a run and shot that was tipped aside by goalkeeper Ofir Marciano late in the second half.

"Frustrating day for us," Coleman said.

That frustration doubled when Hazard swept in a left-footed finish on a rapid counterattack in Cyprus, just when it looked like the hosts were going to hold out for a draw.

Ermin Bicakcic, Edin Dzeko and Senad Lulic were first-half scorers for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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