In football, the table rarely lies. Over the course of a season, or in the case of European Qualifiers, eight matches across as many months, the whole point of the group is to show a true reflection of the strength of a team.
Shock results and performances will be absorbed and won’t in the main impact on who or who doesn’t qualify.
So for Wales, the most likely scenario as they approach their eighth and final qualifying match, is that they will not reach Euro 2024 through the automatic method. Is is a true reflection of their strength? Or did they blow a golden opportunity?
For supporters and undoubtedly for the players and staff, emotions will be raw, and the nagging thought right now might be the latter. The path to Euro 2024 slipped out of their grasp when it looked as if Germany next summer was nestling firmly in the summer schedule.
What will puzzle and hurt Wales is that having actually begun the campaign well – a draw away in Croatia followed by a home win over Latvia – the June internationals were horrible.
Wales responded as a good side should, by getting back into the winning habit. They did that twice, beating Latvia away and then Croatia. It put qualification back in their hands and didn’t matter what others did – win the last two matches and another Euros was on the cards.
It is Wales’ inconsistency which I can’t quite put my finger on. Look at that series of results so far in the seven games played. Draw, win, loss, loss, win, win, draw.
Five points have been lost to Armenia. A side ranked so much lower than Wales you have to scroll a fair distance on the FIFA rankings website to find them. How did those results go begging?
I take and understand Rob Page’s position. He is building a new side, a side with younger players coming through and others emerging from the shadow of Gareth Bale. It is a side in transition. But if you drop significant points against Armenia, how on earth do you take four points from two games against Croatia, the Luka Modric-fuelled World Cup semi-finalists?
The ups and downs of Wales’ qualifying campaign look more like conquering a mountain face and then slipping back down than a journey along a bumpy road. Emotionally, you feel for Page and the players on that front as much as you do for the fans.
Watching Wales is one heck of ride.
And even though it’s inconceivable Croatia will lose at home to Armenia on Tuesday – surely, surely not – which coupled with a Wales win over Turkey would be truly fantastic, the turbulent efforts to get to Euro 2024 do not end here.
Prepare for more nail biting, pounding heart rates because one thing that did go Wales’ way on Saturday was confirmation that they’ve guaranteed a spot in the Euro 2024 play-offs.
For all the highs and lows of the last eight months, it’s not over. Strap in for more. Life with the Welsh team is never predictable nor dull.