We don’t know the outcome of Wales’ World Cup semi-final qualifier against Austria at this time, but a win has the potential to set the nation on fire.
In recent history, Wales as a nation has not been known for a major hit football team. Sure, in 1958 we reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, but that was a lifetime or two ago – and since then we’ve suffered defeats in every sense of the word.
No luck of the draw; 2000s
In 2004 Wales controversially lost to Russia to miss out on a place at Euro 2004 when Yegor Titov tested positive for a banned substance after the first qualifying round.
During the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying phase, Mark Hughes left his role as the team’s first manager to pursue a career as manager of Blackburn. We didn’t qualify and John Toshack was named head coach for the second time.
And in Euro 2008 qualifiers and FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifiers, Wales’ form was unreliable – finishing fifth in the Euro qualifying group with 3-1 defeats and 5-1 against Cyprus and Slovakia, and unfortunately missing out on a World Cup spot. after losing to Finland and Germany in the spring of 2009.
It was a decade of despair and the idea of hope among Welsh fans was non-existent.
the appointment of Gary Speed; source of change
Welsh legend Gary Speed was appointed permanent manager in December 2010, and it was this move alone which is seen by some as the source of the change in Wales’ international reputation.
Players to this day believe Gary Speed put Wales on the path to success, including Joe Allen who said the Welsh still benefit from the legend’s legacy to this day.
Speed’s first competitive game was a 2–0 loss to England, and Wales dropped to 177th in the FIFA World Rankings.
However, by October 2011 Speed had moved Wales from 117th to 45th in the FIFA World Rankings. Victories over Switzerland, Bulgaria and Montenegro proved important in lifting Wales from their lowest ever FIFA rankings.
The boss has put all his faith in 20-year-old Aaron Ramsey, making him the youngest player to captain Wales. Wales were changing under Gary Speed.
Chris Coleman takes charge
Following the extremely tragic death of Gary Speed, Chris Coleman took over the reins in January 2012. Speed’s last game in charge was a 4-1 win over Denmark which perfectly complements the job he has done to rekindle the fire in Welsh football.
Coleman’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers weren’t great – with a 6-1 loss to Serbia being the worst loss since 1996, when Wales lost 7-1 to the Netherlands. Coleman still had work to do, having given Aaron Ramsey’s captain’s armband to Ashley Williams.
Double 2-1 wins against Scotland showed a glimmer of hope, but 2-0 and 2-1 defeats against Croatia ended the dream, for now.
Euro 2016 changes everything
It was the very famous Euro 2016 that marked the start of a change in the real inner spark of Welsh football.
Wales topped qualifying Group B in July 2015 with five wins, three draws and one loss – in a group with Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Israel, among others. Chris Coleman had led Wales to their first major tournament since 1958.
To top it off, in September 2015, following qualifying success, Wales became the highest ranked British football team for the first time when England fell to 10th place and Wales to the 9th.
The Euro 2016 competition was one of the greatest performances by a Welsh football team at a major tournament – and Wales’ huge change in strength and strength is largely down to that.
Robson-Kanu’s immortalized Cruyff turn against Belgium in the quarter-finals might even be the most-watched goal in Welsh history, and for good reason. After beating Belgium, ranked world No. 1, Wales qualified for the semi-finals of Euro 2016. It was pure magic.
We unfortunately lost to Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani scoring to make it 2-0.
But for the first time in our lives, Wales fans were faced with an uproar of international success. Wales reaching a semi-final was the real thrill of an underdog story, especially in the nature in which we did it.
Every child, teenager and adult was glued to their seat to watch a Welsh team pick and choose the highest ranked team in the world at the time in Belgium. School students and teachers dropped out of class, office workers turned off their computers, supermarket sweepers had the stream in their headphones – it was not to be missed.
And since then, every Welsh fan has believed in the team until the end of every game in every tournament every minute.
The belief and magic of Euro 2016 instilled in us that anything is possible, and it really is. Hope now rules Wales, where once we had none.
Euro 2020 and the next World Cup 2022
Despite failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Wales qualified for Euro 2020 after Ryan Giggs was appointed at the start of 2018 – following Chris Coleman’s departure in November 2017. A year later, the Welsh went unbeaten through the second half of 2019 to secure a place. in the competition after a 2-0 victory against Hungary.
With the Euro 2020 competition postponed to 2021, the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League saw Wales maintain an unbeaten record with five consecutive clean sheets to top their group and be promoted to League A in the next League. Nations 2022-23.
Euro 2020 has finally arrived and the rumble in the Welsh stomach was loud. We hoped to be able to match the performance of Euro 2016, despite fierce competition ahead. Rob Page took over as interim manager following Ryan Giggs’ legal troubles.
A successful group stage saw a 2-0 win over Turkey and a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, eventually finishing 2nd in the group.
The RO16 arrived and a destructive Denmark looked to make their mark in the competition. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Wales were unable to deter the Danes and lost 4-0 – thus leaving the competition.
Even if we didn’t progress further, the team spirit and the atmosphere around the team, the supporters and all the staff were perfectly unified. The unconditional love for the team by the fans was returned by the team’s performances on the pitch.
Since the Denmark loss, the Welsh side are unbeaten in 7 games – with games mostly in the 2022 World Cup qualifying group stage – which has taken us to now.
Wales have every qualification change for the 2022 World Cup, but it is Austria who must go first.
Austria are currently ranked 30th, 10 places behind Wales in 20th place. There is a strong belief that Wales can surpass this Austrian side – which boasts the likes of David Alaba (Real Madrid), Marcel Sabitzer (Bayern Munich) and Marko Arnautovic (formerly West Ham).
If Wales beat Austria, they will face Scotland or Ukraine in the play-off final, postponed until June due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The win means Wales will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar – a monumental moment in Welsh history.