MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: World Cup should give Wales fans hope

ON the simple basis that Gareth Bale isn't unhinged, Welsh football fans should take a lot of heart from some of the performances at this extraordinary World Cup.

Apologists for 50-plus years of Welsh footballing failure will constantly point to population size as the reason why, but it's never held true that a small country can't do big things.

Wales' population is pretty much the same as Uruguay's, yet inspired by Luis Suarez, Uruguay knocked England and Italy out of the World Cup and but for Suarez's foibles, they might just have gone even further than the round of 16.

There are barely five million people in Costa Rica, nor do they have any stars of the calibre of Bale and Aaron Ramsey, yet their World Cup story has enthralled us all.

The 'lesser' South American footballing nations haven't just shone at the World Cup because of home advantage, they've impressed because they've produced high tempo 'team' performances, the cohesion of the units ensuring a guy released by Nottingham Forest can produce a more impressive World Cup showing than Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is a drawback, without question, that two European nations also impressing at the World Cup, Belgium and Bosnia, are paired with Chris Coleman's men for the 2016 Euro campaign, but at least this time around, third place in the group earns you a play-off contest.

Because there is no reason Wales couldn't compete, should they get to Euro 2016.

They have two game-changing, world class talents and they have seven or eight Premier League regulars and that is a significant foundation.

They lack a striker, especially with Sam Vokes injured and Craig Bellamy retired, but they must find a system to work around that issue, because Bale and Ramsey won't leave the Dragons short of fire power.

A belief in your game plan and perfect execution of it can take you far, irrespective of the style, both Costa Rica and Greece have demonstrated as much.

It's now down to Chris Coleman to be the alchemist that finally finds the right blend, because the World Cup has shown us, comparatively speaking, Wales have enough options to work with.

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