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London (AFP) - With Gareth Bale's Wales poised to reach a first major tournament in 57 years, AFP Sports looks at the highs and lows that have shaped the team's history:
World Cup quarter-finalists
- Wales qualified for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden -- their only major championship appearance to date -- by beating Israel 4-0 in a two-legged play-off. They reached the quarter-finals, but with figurehead John Charles missing through injury they lost 1-0 to eventual champions Brazil, who prevailed courtesy of a 17-year-old Pele's first World Cup goal.
World champions vanquished
- A year after being crowned world champions, West Germany left Cardiff with their tails between their legs following a 1-0 loss in a qualifying match for the 1992 European Championship. Ian Rush scored the only goal in the 66th minute, running onto a lofted pass from Paul Bodin before beating Bodo Illgner, and Neville Southall performed heroics in the Welsh goal to earn the hosts a famous victory.
Victory over Italy
- Wales kickstarted a valiant Euro 2004 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 defeat of Italy in front of 70,000 raucous fans at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Simon Davies's early opener was cancelled out by Alessandro Del Piero, but with 20 minutes left, Craig Bellamy raced through and rounded Gianluigi Buffon to give Mark Hughes's men victory.
Bale bests Belgium
- In their last home game, Wales beat a Belgium team containing Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Christian Benteke to take control of Euro 2016 qualifying Group B. Gareth Bale marked his 50th cap with the only goal at Cardiff City Stadium and the result had the added bonus of catapulting Wales into the first pot of seeds for the World Cup draw.
- In 1977, Wales tackled Scotland at Anfield needing victory to qualify for the following year's World Cup in Argentina. With the score goalless late in the second half, Scotland striker Joe Jordan appeared to handle the ball inside the Wales penalty area, only for the referee to award a penalty to the Scots. Don Masson scored it and a Kenny Dalglish goal confirmed Wales's heartbreak.
Bodin's penalty woe
- Sixteen years later, Wales faced Romania in Cardiff knowing that victory would take them to the World Cup. With the score 1-1 in the second half, Wales were awarded a penalty, only for hapless left-back Bodin to crash it against the bar. Seven minutes from time, Florin Raducioiu put Romania in front and Wales' World Cup dreams were dashed yet again.
- Inspired by the victory over Italy in October 2002, Wales finished second in their qualifying group and faced a two-legged play-off against Russia. A 0-0 first-leg draw in Moscow left Hughes's side well placed, but they fell behind to a Vadim Evseev header in the 21st minute of the return leg and Ryan Giggs spurned the best chance of an equaliser when his shot hit the post.
Death of Gary Speed
- A member of the team beaten by Romania and Russia, former midfielder Gary Speed became manager in December 2010 and led a remarkable turnaround in Wales' fortunes that saw them climb from 117th to 45th in the FIFA ranking. But the 42-year-old was found hanged in his garage by his wife in November 2011, plunging British sport into mourning.