Bale goes quiet; Wales made to wait before sealing Euro 2016 spot
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — 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 at Cardiff City Stadium.
The unbeaten Welsh remain top of Group B and will still qualify with two games to spare if second-place Belgium fails to beat Cyprus away later Sunday. Otherwise, a draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina away or last-place Andorra at home will see Wales reach a first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.
"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."
Except for one late shot that was saved, Real Madrid star Gareth Bale was kept quiet by a defensively minded Israel, which is third in the group.
The top two qualify and third place guarantees at least a playoff berth.
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 with the frustration 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 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 sent a free kick over and was denied by goalkeeper Ofir Marciano in the second half, with Israel staying compact and rarely throwing men forward.
"Frustrating day for us," Coleman said. "We had enough chances to win it."
In Sunday's other match, Bosnia-Herzegovina hosts Andorra and needs a win to stand a chance of a top-two finish.