Wales are still ranked in the top 20 in the world and should be able to edge past Belarus on Sunday afternoon, says Dave Tindall...
"James got the winner when these sides last met while he also got that all-important goal which defeated the Czechs."
Belarus v Wales
Live on Sky Sports
Belarus face home double header
Belarus have back-to-back home games coming up - Wales on Sunday and Belgium on Wednesday. Good look with that one.
Their first home outing of the group went well at least as they scored a 4-2 victory over Estonia.
A little more detail is needed to paint the full picture though. After 55 minutes, Estonia were 2-1 in front and the game was locked at 2-2 after 64.
But with 13 minute left, the visitors were reduced to 10 men and Belarus cashed in by scoring twice late on to bag all three points.
That was a stark contrast to their opening game: an 8-0 thrashing away to Belgium.
They did better on Thursday night away to the Czech Republic but again fired blanks and lost 1-0.
Wales looking to build on crucial Czech win
Wales are coming in a little less match hardened having only played a friendly against Finland in the last week.
Both countries sent out second-string sides although Gareth Bale did have 20 minutes at the end after coming off the bench and managed to have a couple of shots - a volley from range that flew over and a rather tame shot that was easy for the goalkeeper.
The game finished 0-0 mainly due to Harry Wilson missing a penalty after Brennan Johnson had been tripped in the 24th minute.
It didn't particularly matter but that's the third straight penalty Wales have missed - Bale and Sam Vokes didn't convert the other two - so they'll need to sort that out when the margins are tight.
So far in the group they've lost 3-1 away to Belgium after Wilson had completed a slick move to give them an early lead and scored a crucial 1-0 home win over the Czech Republic.
Dan James grabbed the winner in the 81st minute with his head, rising highest to nod in Bale's left-wing cross.
The market says Wales should bank all three points and Robert Page's men are just 1.674/6 for the win.
Belarus are 6.411/2 to score their second home victory of the group while The Draw is 3.55.
In terms of world ranking, it's 88th v 18th so that's a mismatch if using such a metric.
As for head-to-heads, they were familiar opponents at the turn of the century, playing each other four times between 1998 and 2001 in World Cup/Euro qualifiers.
Wales won three of those four and also prevailed in their only other clash, the 1-0 friendly win in Cardiff in 2019 when James' early goal proved enough.
On first glance, this seems a very Unders type of game and the odds reflect that. Under 2.5 goals is just 1.584/7 while Over 2.5 is 2.526/4.
Wales were thumped 4-0 by Denmark in Euro 2020 but seven of their last nine games have featured two goals or fewer so the quotes look fair on those numbers.
Belarus help the argument for Unders with nine of their last 12 home games going that way although the last two didn't: that 4-2 win over Estonia in March and a 2-1 friendly defeat by Azerbaijan in June.
I think Wales can nick the win here but rather than look to Bale I'll put my cash on Dan James instead.
James got the winner when these sides last met while he also got that all-important goal which defeated the Czechs.
He should be itching to impress new boss Marcelo Bielsa after his move to Leeds in the transfer window and looks a better bet than Bale based on recent history.
Almost amazingly, Bale hasn't scored in his last 16 games for Wales, a stretch which goes back almost two years. He's proved his weight in gold with plenty of assists but the goals have dried up.
Head to the Bet Builder and, not for the first time, back James to register in a narrow Wales win.
The bet is James to score and Wales to win by exactly one goal at 9.617/2.
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Dave's profit for 2021/22 season