While England have top spot in World Cup Group B in their sights tonight against Wales, the stakes are much higher for their opponents at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
If Wales are to avoid elimination, only a win against England will do – and even then, they will need to do so by four goals or rely on a draw in the game between the USA and Iran.
The long odds call for an uncharacteristically gung-ho approach, or as a preview on the Welsh FA’s website termed it: “World Cup All Or Nothing For Cymru”.
If that was a nod to the popular Amazon Prime docuseries, then they could equally have referred to another, The Last Dance, which chronicled Michael Jordan’s swansong with the Chicago Bulls.
For Jordan, read Gareth Bale, the talismanic figure who has led Wales during a period of historic success for the national team.
This is set to be the last international tournament for Bale and likely several more of his generation, including Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Chris Gunter and Wayne Hennessey.
Thanks to Bale’s goals, Wales have become regular fixtures at the biggest competitions for the first time in their history.
They ended 58 years in the wilderness by qualifying for Euro 2016, where they embarked on a thrilling and improbable run to the semi-finals, also made it to Euro 2020 and this year reached only their second World Cup finals ever and their first since 1958.
Individually, too, Bale has scaled new heights for the number of caps won (110) and goals scored (41) in a Wales shirt.
Hopes of a glorious send-off in Qatar have not yet been borne out and are now hanging by a thread.
Having rallied to draw with the USA in their opening game, Wales were disappointing in a 2-0 defeat by Iran on Friday that left them bottom of the group.
It is seven games since they last tasted victory, in June’s 1-0 play-off win over Ukraine which booked their spot at this World Cup.
Wales cannot draw much hope from their record against England, either.
In 103 meetings, they have beaten their neighbours just 14 times – eight of which came in the inter-war years – and have lost the last six.
If there is a glimmer of hope it may come from their only other meeting at a major tournament, Euro 2016, when England nicked an attritional win in stoppage time, or Bale’s enduring knack of scoring in clutch moments, such as the MLS Cup final earlier this month.
“It’s a tough task,” Allen said. “It’s always uncomfortable when it’s not in your hands and you’re relying on certain things to unfold but, while there’s still a chance, it’s really simple for us.
“We’re fully motivated, fully incentivised into throwing absolutely everything into getting the win. Then, who knows? Hopefully, there’s a chance we can still get out of this group.”
For England, first place awaits as long as they avoid a thrashing by Wales, but Gareth Southgate insists he is taking nothing for granted.
“We’re facing an opponent that is wounded and, like everyone else, desperate to beat the English,” said the England head coach.
“We need to play an intelligent game and play it well. We need to match their spirit. I’d be very disappointed afterwards if someone says their players want it more than ours.”