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Wales dreaming of the World Cup after favorable qualifying draw

The Welsh national team is dreaming of spending the summer of 2018 in Russia thanks to a kind draw for group qualifying.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

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The next World Cup is looking like it could see a change in the landscape, with several traditional powers looking to be on the wane and a number of smaller countries on the rise as 2018 approaches. Now, after Saturday's draw to determine qualifying groups to see who goes to Russia, one country in particular is dreaming big: Wales.

The summer of 2018 will mark 60 years since the Welsh were last in the World Cup, when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals in Sweden. They're hoping to get back in the World Cup, and with their qualifying group the odds look pretty good. They'll face Austria, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Moldova and Georgia in Group D, and while there will definitely be some tough matches for the Dragons, they should be able to come out on top of that group, or at worst work their way into the second-place playoff group.

With the world-class talent of Gareth Bale leading the way, the Welsh have long been interesting, but now they're actually becoming a good and complete national side thanks to several young players coming into their own. With Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and others giving Bale support, Wales have become a force. They went undefeated in their first six European Championship qualifiers, including an impressive win over Belgium. Their only loss in the last year was against World Cup-bound Netherlands, when Bale was out with an injury.

Can they keep that form up and get to Russia? That has yet to be seen, but right now, they've got to be feeling good about their chances.

In the news

The United States will square off with Mexico on Oct. 9 in a playoff game to see who goes to the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Does Bob Bradley deserve another shot at managing the USMNT? (Yahoo!)

Manchester United have signed Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero on a free transfer. (Manchester United official site)

The Montreal Impact have acquired the MLS rights of Didier Drogba from the Chicago Fire. (ESPN FC)

Gerard Pique thinks that Barcelona's transfer ban is unfair. (Marca)

You should be reading

Kevin Rawlinson holds Newcastle up as an example of clubs causing problems for journalists. (The Guardian)

Leander Schaerlaeckens on Ajax failing to secure a second dynasty era. (Soccer Gods)

Giles Barnes didn't take an easy road to the Gold Cup final. (Sports Illustrated)

Is Daniel Sturridge being forgotten and overlooked at Liverpool? (Liverpool Echo)

Fun with transfer rumors

The section in which nothing should be taken seriously. It's rumor season, so this section will be expanded, and as the summer rolls on, it will probably be bigger than the actual news section.

Where is Davide Astori signing? He had a deal set with Napoli, but now might be heading to Fiorentina or Juventus instead. (Football Italia)

Louis van Gaal wants Manchester United to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, but doesn't think it's possible. (ESPN FC)

It looks like Angel Di Maria might be joining Paris Saint-Germain. (BBC)

Real Madrid made a pass at Mauro Icardi, but he elected to stay at Inter Milan. (AS)

This weekend's games

The USMNT lost the Gold Cup third place match to Panama on penalties. (Stars and Stripes FC)

Mexico thrashed Jamaica 3-1 in the Gold Cup final.

Andrea Pirlo made his New York City FC debut off the bench and helped lead a 5-3 comeback win over Orlando City SC. (Hudson River Blue)

Juventus' first big friendly didn't go so well, losing 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund. (Black & White & Read All Over)

The International Champions Cup hosted the first Derby della Madonnina of the season. AC Milan beat Inter Milan 1-0 on a Philippe Mexes stunner. (Inter Offside)

What to watch on Monday (click for listings, all times Eastern)

ICC: Inter Milan vs. Real Madrid (8 a.m.) -- Rafa Benitez leads his new team against one of his old ones.


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