Wales will host Iceland on Wednesday evening as both national teams set to embark on their 2014 campaigns with a victory against a tough opponent.
Hope springs eternal for the Welsh entering 2014, as Gareth Bale continues to develop into a superstar player and one of the world's best footballers. However, they still enter the year missing out on the upcoming World Cup and ranked 51st in the latest FIFA rankings.
Iceland will turn Wales' respective heads coming into town, however, as they nearly secured a spot in the World Cup before losing to Croatia in the second leg of a qualifying play-off.
Let's break down the opening match of 2014 for both of these clubs.
When: Wednesday, March 5 at 2:45 p.m. EST (7:45 p.m. GMT)
Where: Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
Top Storyline: Will Gareth Bale Don the Armband?
Bale is back with his Welsh teammates gearing up for Wednesday's game, and he could end up taking the pitch as the team's captain.
According to Phil Blanche of WalesOnline, Bale could be promoted to captain if Ashley Williams misses the game while recovering from an illness.
It would be far from surprising for Wales to make such a move. The 24-year-old has pretty much put Welsh soccer back on the map, and any chances they have of reaching the pinnacle of international football—the World Cup or Euro—will have to go through Bale.
Ever since moving to Real Madrid as well, Bale has taken his game to a whole new level. While he emerged as a superstar at Tottenham, he has grown into a system that includes stars all around him and is still flourishing.
Bale has scored 10 goals and notched 10 assists in his 18 La Liga appearances for Madrid, further proving his recent emergence.
When he gets onto the pitch with his Welsh teammates, it could allow for things to open up for him as he takes on more of a central role in the offense. Obviously, at Madrid, Bale has to deal with a number of stars around him, and Cristiano Ronaldo often has the offense flow through him.
Wales have veteran players who could end up donning the armband over Bale, but it's no secret that the wealth of this team lies in the future.
There's no reason not to reflect that with their choosing of this temporary captain.
How will it end?
Iceland will be itching to get back onto the pitch and dispel their memories of being bounced from World Cup qualification and seeing Croatia celebrate a bid. But it will be easier said than done notching a momentum-building win in Wales.
Bale is playing as good of football as most anyone in the world right now, and against a team like Iceland that doesn't have many world-class players on defense, that will end up being a problem. This team will be hungry to make 2014 much different than the previous few years.
Wales 2, Iceland 1