Wales show they can compete with the best.


At the culmination of a hectic and heroic run of games, Robert Page’s Welsh history-makers have shown the world that, despite some last-gasp defeats and disappointments, they fully deserve their place at the top table of the world game.

Following promotion in the last edition of the Nations League, Wales have found themselves in League A amongst the best teams in Europe.

They line up alongside Belgium, The Netherlands, and Poland. The four group winners in League A will progress to the knockout Finals in June 2023, whilst the teams who finish fourth, in their respective sub-groups, will be relegated to League B.

Manager Robert Page rang the changes for these games, which came either side of that momentous victory over Ukraine which sent Wales to the World Cup Final for the first time since 1958.

A much-changed Wales side prepared for that World Cup play-off final with a creditable display in defeat in Poland in the first of these Nations League encounters.

Page rested his big guns such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey for the clash in Wroclaw but the replacements second-string applied themselves well in a goalless first half against a full-strength home side. With Ipswich Town’s Wes Burns making his Welsh debut in this tie.

Piotr Zielinski and Robert Lewandowski missed chances for Poland, while Daniel James of Leeds United was a threat for the Welsh throughout.

Jonny Williams gave the visitors an unexpected lead with a fine low strike early in the second half, before Jakub Kaminski equalised. Fellow substitute Karol Swiderski bundled in a late-winning goal from close range to deny the Welsh a deserved share of the spoils.

Wales had never beaten the Netherlands and Page further shuffled his pack for the visit of Louis Van Gaal’s side to Cardiff. The impressive Brennan Johnson featured up front for Wales. Ben Davies who had been in such fine form in repelling the Ukrainians, captained the side. Bale sat on the bench amidst speculation that he could be on the brink of an amazing move to Cardiff City.

Wales gave a good account of themselves against the Dutch Masters and, on another night, could have grabbed the lead as first-half headers from Harry Wilson and the impressive Rhys Norrington-Davies went close. Visiting €75 million, left-back Matthijs de Ligt of Juventus had a busy first half keeping tabs on Johnson.

Wales fell behind to a strike from the Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners after 50 minutes as the constant Dutch pressure took its toll.

Page introduced exciting Cardiff City prospect Rubin Colwill for the last half hour, but, despite some neat touches from the Welsh-speaking youngster, the classy visitors continued to hold the upper hand.

A late appearance from Gareth Bale lifted the crowd of 23,395 and in the dying moments Norrington-Davies headed in an unlikely equalizer before the towering Wout Weghorst of Burnley blasted in a header to bring the victory that the Dutchmen probably deserved.

The fixtures continued to come thick and fast for Wales, as former Swansea City boss Roberto Martinez returned to Wales as manager of the highly-fancied Belgian national side.

Belgium were without Romelu Lukaku for this tie as the Chelsea striker continues to struggle with an ankle injury. Wales duo Kieffer Moore and Joe Morrell were ruled out with injuries but goalkeeper Wayne Hennesey returned in goal. Bale captained the home side while Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne led the visitors.

Wales made a terrific start with a rasping drive into the net from Ethan Ampadu only for French referee Benoît Bastien to rule the effort out after a considerable delay and the consultation of VAR. Visiting goalkeeper Koen Casteels, who plays his club football for Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg was left helpless by the strike.

Arthur Theate of Bologna was prominent at left-back for the Belgians while Bale went close for the hosts in a lively and spirited opening to the game before an enthusiastic crowd of 27,188. Bale in particular was in sparkling form, with James too causing problems.

The visitors grew into the game despite the impressive form of the Welsh. A brilliant Thomas Meunier ball released Yannick Carrasco but the chance was wasted. At the other end, Connor Roberts flashed over a header and later chipped over the bar in a remarkably entertaining game. Leandro Trosard shot clumsily wide for Belgian. It had been a breathless opening 45.

Some slick play by the Belgians allowed Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans to fire the visitors ahead early in the second half.

Both managers made a series of changes with around 20 minutes as Bale and others were replaced by Colwill and others for Wales. Eden Hazard of Real Madrid joined the fray.

The second half had lacked the verve of the opening 45 but with only one goal in it, there was every chance that the plucky hosts could still ruffle the feathers of their highly-ranked visitors – second only to Brazil. James, Johnson, and most of the attending crowd did their best to make it happen.

On 86 minutes, Brennan Johnson swept home for Wales after a sparkling Ramsey pirouette, and – following a seemingly endless VAR check the goal stood. Delirious scenes around the stadium.

Wales held on to achieve a result that felt like a victory against their illustrious opponents. An emotional week had received a fitting climax.

Wales complete their current run of Nations League games with a trip to Stadium Feijenoord, Rotterdam for the return clash with the Dutch on 14 June 2022.




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