WELSH WOES

SI­MON SHEL­DON TAKES A LOOK BACK AT WALES’ QUAL­I­FI­CA­TION NEAR-MISSES OVER THE YEARS…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - FRUSTRATION CONTINUES -

YOU have to feel for Welsh foot­ball fans as yet again their team gets so close to qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup fi­nals but misses out, this time af­ter their 1-0 de­feat to the Repub­lic of Ire­land.

It is now 60 years since their only ap­pear­ance at the fi­nals in Swe­den 1958, where, of course, they reached the quar­ter­fi­nals against Brazil.

Mind you, they al­most didn’t make it then. They had come sec­ond in their qual­i­fy­ing group be­hind Cze­choslo­vakia and thought the chance had gone.

But due to the pol­i­tics of the Mid­dle East, Is­rael had qual­i­fied with­out ac­tu­ally play­ing a match. Egypt and Su­dan had re­fused to play against Is­rael fol­low­ing the Suez Cri­sis, whilst In­done­sia would only play them on neu­tral ground.

FIFA pro­claimed that Is­rael would win the group but in­sisted that they would have to play off against a team from Europe.

Thus, all the teams that had fin­ished sec­ond in their groups were put in the draw to see who would get an­other chance to qual­ify in a two-legged match v Is­rael.

Bel­gium were drawn out but re­fused to par­tic­i­pate so Wales were next to come out and were happy to play.

Wales, un­der man­ager Jimmy Mur­phy, went to Is­rael on Jan­uary 15, 1958 and won 2-0. The sec­ond leg in Cardiff was on Fe­bru­ary 5 and the Welsh won 2-0 again to qual­ify for the fi­nals.

Mur­phy also worked with Manch­ester United as as­sis­tant coach to Matt Busby and the sec­ond leg clashed with United’s trip to Bel­grade for a Euro­pean Cup tie.

Busby in­sisted that Mur­phy should stay with the Welsh squad and this meant he missed the Mu­nich Tragedy.

Af­ter help­ing United cope with the af­ter­math and be­gin­ning the re­birth of Manch­ester United, Mur­phy took a strong Welsh squad in­clud­ing John Charles, Ivor Allchurch and Jack Kelsey to Swe­den. Wales per­formed ex­cel­lently in draw­ing all three group games against Hun­gary, Mex­ico and the hosts, Swe­den.

Swe­den won the group, leav­ing Wales and Hun­gary tied in sec­ond. In those days, FIFA did not use goal dif­fer­ence to sep­a­rate the teams, so made the two sides play again.

Wales won 2-1 and moved on to the

quar­ter­fi­nals and a match against Brazil. How­ever, an in­jury to their best player John Charles meant he would miss the match.

Wales lost 1-0. The goal was scored by a 17-year-old who would go on to be the great­est player ever, Pele.

The 1960s and early 70s qual­i­fy­ing cam­paigns are easy to for­get but reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals in the 1976 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships (Wales had won their group but, at this time, the eight group win­ners would be drawn in two­legged quar­ter-fi­nals with only the four win­ning teams go­ing on to a fi­nals tour­na­ment) be­fore los­ing 3-1 to Yu­goslavia on ag­gre­gate gave some hope to the up­com­ing qual­i­fiers for Ar­gentina 78.

In a group of three teams, Wales were drawn with Cze­choslo­vakia and Scot­land, know­ing that the win­ners would au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for the fi­nals.

Re­sults against the Czechs left the group to be de­cided in the fi­nal match, Wales at home v Scot­land.

Well, it was sup­posed to be at home. Be­cause of crowd trou­ble, Wales could not use Ninian Park in Cardiff and, with the other pos­si­ble grounds con­sid­ered too small, the Welsh FA de­cided to stage the match at Liver­pool’s An­field in or­der to se­cure more money from a larger crowd.

A full house is what they got, but, un­for­tu­nately for Wales, the Tar­tan Army trav­elled down in force to out­num­ber their Welsh coun­ter­parts and so the scene was set.

It was a pul­sat­ing en­counter with both sides cre­at­ing chances but with the match ap­proach­ing the fi­nal 15 min­utes it re­mained goal­less.

In the 78th minute Scot­land striker Joe Jor­dan rose with Welsh de­fender David Jones to chal­lenge for Asa Hart­ford’s long

throw into the Welsh penalty area and then, to the as­ton­ish­ment of every­one, the French ref­eree Robert Wurtz awarded a penalty for hand­ball by Jones.

Tele­vi­sion re­plays clearly showed Jor­dan’s hand had flicked the ball to­wards the goal, but Wurtz had made his de­ci­sion.

Don Masson coolly slot­ted the penalty past Dai Davies and with Kenny Dal­glish on his home ground ad­ding a sec­ond goal, the Welsh dream was over.

Mike Eng­land took over as man­ager for the 1982 qual­i­fiers where they missed out on goal dif­fer­ence.

Dur­ing the qual­i­fiers for 1986, de­spite beat­ing Spain 3-0, in­clud­ing a won­der goal from Mark Hughes, and win­ning 1- 0 at Ham­p­den against Scot­land, a de­feat in Ice­land meant they had to win at home against the Scots again. This time, Wales scored first through Hughes and con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate and cre­ate chance af­ter chance with­out get­ting that all- im­por­tant sec­ond goal that prob­a­bly would have clinched the win re­quired. With time run­ning out, the Scots brought on mer­cu­rial winger Davie Cooper to try and res­cue a point which was all they needed to qual­ify. The ball was crossed into the penalty area and headed down by Graeme Sharp into the path of David Speedie whose shot was head­ing over the cross­bar, but it struck de­fender David Phillips on the el­bow and the ref­eree awarded the penalty. The Welsh could not be­lieve it, an­other con­tro­ver­sial penalty like in 1977. Cooper took re­spon­si­bil­ity to take the spot- kick and struck the ball low and hard to his right. De­spite Neville Southall get­ting his fin­gers to it, he couldn’t stop it from go­ing in and the match ended in a 1-1 draw that will, sadly, be re­mem­bered for the death of Scot­land man­ager Jock Stein who col­lapsed from a heart at­tack at the end of the game. The Nineties saw the Welsh put to­gether a strong squad but in­juries to key play­ers af­fected their 1990 cam­paign. A good run of re­sults gave hope of qual­i­fy­ing for the fi­nals in 1994. A win at home in their fi­nal match against Ro­ma­nia was re­quired. With the likes of star play­ers Southall, Ian Rush, Gary Speed and Ryan Giggs play­ing un­der man­ager Terry Yo­rath, the score was level at 1-1 when Wales, who were dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion, were awarded a penalty when Speed was fouled in the box. This time Wales were awarded a penalty. Paul Bodin, usu­ally a re­li­able penalty taker, stepped up and smashed the penalty against the bar with glory beck­on­ing. With min­utes re­main­ing, Ro­ma­nia scored a late win­ner to break Welsh hearts again. Yo­rath was sacked and Wales went through a string of man­agers un­til Mark Hughes took over. They did get close to reach­ing the Eu­ros in 2004, los­ing again in a play-off. Wales did not come close to qual­i­fy­ing in the next few tour­na­ments. Gary Speed took charge in De­cem­ber 2010 and af­ter some poor re­sults at first, wins against Mon­tene­gro, Switzer­land and Bul­garia saw Wales mov­ing up the world rank­ings and, with some promis­ing young play­ers, things were look­ing good. Then a cou­ple of weeks af­ter a 4-1 win over Nor­way, trag­i­cally Speed was found dead at his home. His close friend Chris Cole­man reluc­tantly took over as man­ager and they strug­gled in the 2014 qual­i­fiers. But Cole­man and his young team, with their star man Gareth Bale, stuck to­gether and won their group to qual­ify for Euro 2016 in France. Wins over Slo­vakia and Russia saw them win the group and they then moved on to the last 16 and beat North­ern Ire­land. A mar­vel­lous 3-1 win against Bel­gium in the quar­ter-fi­nals sealed a fab­u­lous tour­na­ment that even a de­feat by Por­tu­gal in the semi­fi­nals couldn’t ruin. The 2018 qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign started well, but too many drawn matches would ul­ti­mately be their un­do­ing, cul­mi­nat­ing in that fate­ful win­ner-takes-all match against the Repub­lic of Ire­land. So, a history of near misses, con­tro­ver­sial penal­ties and late goals con­tin­ues.

RE­MEM­BER THIS? Paul Bodin cracks his penalty against the cross­bar against Ro­ma­nia in 1993

Pain: James McClean scores the Repub­lic of Ire­land’s win­ner and, in­set, a dev­as­tated Aaron Ram­sey

Wales XI who haven’t played at a World Cup

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