James Collins is dreaming of helping Wales to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup finals in more than half a century.

The West Ham United defender has not played for Wales since March 2011 but is expected to start for his country when they begin their Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign by facing Belgium in Cardiff on Friday evening.

Wales, who are in Group A alongside the Belgians, Serbia, Croatia, Scotland and FYR Macedonia, have not reached the FIFA World Cup finals since their only previous appearance in 1958.

Collins knows the likes of Barclays Premier League stars Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele will not make it easy to change that record, but he is confident Chris Coleman's men can build on the foundations left by the late Gary Speed.

"I can't wait to play for Wales again as it really has been too long," he told whufc.com "I have had to pull out of the last few squads with little niggles so I am delighted to be fully fit and I am really looking forward to it.

"The key even when Speedo took over was to qualify for a major tournament, particularly the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and that is what we are going to try to do.

"We begin with two very tough games, starting with Belgium on Friday. If you look at their squad they have a great team. We will have to be at our best and then we face another difficult game out in Serbia next Tuesday."

While Belgian football is undoubtedly on the rise, Collins believes the fact so many of their players ply their trade in the Barclays Premier League will aid Wales' cause.

"I think that around 90 per cent of the Belgium squad play in the Premier League, so we will have a good understanding of how they play.

"That will help us and, if our players perform how we know they can, there is no reason why we can't come away with a positive result. We can beat anyone on our day."

James Collins

Newport-born James Collins has been capped 39 times by Wales

Collins admitted that the last year had been a difficult one for the Welsh squad following the death of Speed and insisted the best way to honour his memory would be to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

"It's been very tough, particularly because the circumstances were so horrendous. He was a great man and he is sorely missed, but the lads now have to move on. He put in place a plan to qualify for Brazil and that is what we hope to do in the way he set out."

With the international break following Saturday's 3-0 home win over Fulham, Collins left for national duty on a high following his disappointing performance in the 3-0 defeat at Swansea City.

"It was good being at home, getting the three points and putting the disappointment of the previous weekend behind us. Nobody was happy with the result against Swansea, myself more than anyone, so to bounce back and win 3-0 was great.

"I think the disappointment of losing 3-0 really spurred us on. We knew no-one was good enough at Swansea and that individual errors cost us the game so we were focused from the start."

Collins also paid tribute to the work done by Sam Allardyce and the club during the final days of the Transfer Window in adding Andy Carroll and his former West Ham team-mate Yossi Benayoun.

"We have made some terrific signings with Andy and Yossi coming and I think they have really given everyone a boost. I think we had a great squad already when I arrived, so to add a few more top-quality players is great, it has given everyone a lift and I think it showed on the pitch."

Collins played alongside Benayoun previously between 2005 and 2007, reaching the FA Cup final and staving off relegation in amazing style, and the Welshman believes the Israel captain can play a huge part over the course of the season.

"To have Yossi back is great. The first time he was here he was a fantastic player. I have kept in contact with him over the years and when I spoke to him he couldn't wait to get back.

"Yossi would be great in any team - we have seen that since he left the club with Liverpool, Chelsea and last season with Arsenal. To have him playing for West Ham United again is fantastic."