UEFA World Cup qualifying preview: Wales, Iceland look to build on dream summers

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

36 European sides began World Cup qualifying this weekend, and powers new and old will join them on Monday.

[ MORE: How will USMNT lineup Tuesday?]

EURO 2016 darlings Iceland and Wales will begin their roads to Russia, while mainstays Spain and Italy start Group G playing knowing only one will earn an automatic spot to the tournament.

Wales vs. Moldova 2:45 p.m. EDT

Gareth Bale keeps getting better according to Welsh coach Chris Coleman, who resisted numerous club overtures in the hopes to build on Wales’ terrific EURO run. The Welsh won Group B ahead of geographical rivals England before toppling Northern Ireland and Belgium to get within a sniff of the final.

They begin a tricky but winnable Group D with a fairly easy home match against minnows Moldova in a pool with Austria, Serbia, Ireland, and Georgia.

Ukraine vs. Iceland 2:45 p.m. EDT

EURO quarterfinalists Iceland captured the imaginations of all fans with their upset of England before falling to France, but have a very difficult road to Russia. Strákarnir okkar have to contend with a very able group whose “minnows” are brand new and inspired Kosovo and a Finland side who is far from a cakewalk. Additionally, Iceland won’t sneak up on Croatia, Turkey, and Sunday’s hosts at Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

The rest (all times EDT)

Georgia vs. Austria — Noon
Israel vs. Italy — 2:45 p.m.
Spain vs. Liechtenstein — 2:45 p.m.
Serbia vs. Ireland — 2:45 p.m.
Albania vs. Macedonia — 2:45 p.m.
Croatia vs. Turkey — 2:45 p.m.
Finland vs. Kosovo — 2:45 p.m.
Spain vs. Liechtenstein — 2:45 p.m.