Wales vs Concacaf (part 2)
In part 1 of this blog Russell Todd looked back at Wales’s encounters with Concacaf opposition up to 1990. In part two he looks at the matches since.
Wales 0-0 Jamaica, 1998 – another World Cup, another game as warm up fodder for a qualifier; this time Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz.
At a drenched Ninian Park, a raw Welsh team – with only Mark Pembridge and Gary Speed possessing 20 or more caps – saw Darren Barnard and, from the bench, Craig Bellamy win debuts.
Jamaica arguably edged the game based on chances but Wales’s heavyweight forward line of Gareth Taylor, John Hartson and substitute Simon Haworth also had their chances.
Late on Onandi Lowe elbowed Paul Trollope and was shown a red card in front of 13,000 people many of whom by this point were, intentionally or passively, quite stoned.
USA 2-0 Wales, 2003 – at the end of a season in which Wales had beaten Italy as part of a 10 match unbeaten run giving hope that a tournament qualification was finally on the horizon, Wales travelled to San Jose in California to face the USA for the first time.
Mark Hughes initially named a 29 man squad, which he was intending to whittle down to 20 to make the trip. Suggesting that he was expecting withdrawals, Hughes also placed a further ten on standby. He couldn’t have expected quite how many jibbed out from travelling.
Hughes dipped into the standby list and beyond, with the likes of youngsters such as Mansfield’s Rhys Day, Lee Fowler, David Pipe, Stephen Roberts and Jamie Tolley all needing to dig out their passports.
The match was a disaster, no more so than for Matt Jones who was press-ganged into action out of position at right back, conceded a penalty and was sent off. Darren Ward let in a soft goal, while David Vaughan and David Pipe won their first, and in the latter’s case only, cap.
Christian Roberts was one of the youngsters called up but admits in his honest autobiography how he got plastered most days on the trip, ending it by making an arse of himself serving behind the bar and sliding a beer along it, Tom Cruise in Cocktail style, to Mark Hughes when he arrived.
“‘Behave yourself. Calm down!’. No Chance! It didn’t matter that this was the manager of the national team…the barriers were down and I wanted to get annihilated”
Thanks to @greg2783 for the help in this research
Trinidad and Tobago 1-2 Wales, 2006 – it’s a World Cup year which means only one thing: Wales help another team’s tournament preparations.
Ahead of their tournament debut in Germany, Trinidad and Tobago had based themselves in neighbouring Austria where Wales travelled to Graz to face the Caribbean nation for the first time, who had been drawn to face England.
Talent that has amassed over £86M worth of career transfer fees and won four Champions Leagues between them made their debut in the game: Jason Brown, Glyn Garner, Arron Davies and 16 year old Gareth Bale.
Bale came on late to supply the cross for Robert Earnshaw’s brace – Earnie’s first goals under John Toshack and his first for Wales in almost two years; his longest international barren spell up to that point.
Wales 1-0 Canada, 2004 – A first game in five years at The Racecourse saw Wales face Canada for a third time. Wales continued to suggest they had suffered little hangover from the play-off defeat to Russia earlier in the season with a third win in a four game unbeaten run of friendlies (Scotland 4-0, Hungary 2-1, Norway 0-0).
James Collins made his debut in the Norway friendly three days earlier and started again in a defence also featuring Ben Thatcher who had declared himself available for Wales, despite England under 21 caps, during Fifa’s year long 2004 ‘amnesty’ on dual qualified players turning out for a second country.
Paul Parry rounded off a fairytale season that saw him start 2004 as a Conference player with Hereford, before moving to Cardiff City, making his international debut at the Millennium Stadium and scoring for Wales with an early header.
Wales 0-1 Costa Rica, 2012 – the game no-one wanted played, but simply had to be. Though Chris Coleman had officially been appointed as Gary Speed’s replacement, Osian Roberts took charge of Wales for this memorial and tribute match to the great man.
In a solemn, grieving Cardiff City Stadium what should have been a meaningless friendly was invested with huge meaning as the opponents on the occasion of Speed’s international debut were invited to return to Cardiff to book-end his Wales career.
The action on the pitch was of little consequence and I remember next to nothing of it.
Mexico 2-0 Wales, 2012 – The Chris Coleman era officially got underway in front of a partisan Mexican crowd even though the fixture took place on American soil in New Jersey.
Mexico dominated the match and won comfortably; had it not been for Jason Brown, a surprise inclusion playing his first Wales game in six years, it could have been a rout. Chris Gunter played centre back and was as poor as he was dominating almost three years to the day later against Belgium in Cardiff.
Wales 1-1 Panama, 2017 – Having fought so hard to rescue the campaign and scrape into the World Cup play-offs, before fluffing their lines at home to Ireland, Chris Coleman – increasingly looking as though his Wales tenure was at an end – had used the France and this Panama friendly to look, arguably belatedly, to the future. At the Stade de France, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu had made debuts from the bench. Against a hugely experienced and World Cup-bound Panama side, Tom Lockyer, Marley Watkins, Lee Evans and Ryan Hedges did likewise. But it was Brooks and Ampadu who stole the show, with the latter authoritatively bossing his much more experienced teammates around and Brooks flitting and floating as if he’d barely leave footprints in snow.
Tom Lawrence scored his second goal in four games but frustratingly, Panama snatched an undeserved draw with the finishing XI’s inexperience telling. Randomly, Andrew Crofts came on as a second half substitute to add a retro feel to proceedings.
Mexico 0-0 Wales, 2018 – Another clash on American soil, saw a raw Wales team, in which Ryan Giggs continued his bold move of giving youth and fringe players their head, show admirable resoluteness. Ashley Williams left the pitch injured on only 21 minutes but Chris Mepham and sub Tom Lockyer – four caps between them before the game – were rocks, arguably persuading Giggs in this game that they could fill the shoes of Williams and Chester.
George Thomas and Matt Smith made debuts from the bench and impressed. But such has been the pace of evolution under Giggs that both have slipped out of the reckoning and been superseded by the likes of Joe Morrell, Will Vaulks, Dan James and Tyler Roberts.
Wales 1-0 Trinidad and Tobago, 2019 – International football returned to The Racecourse for the first time in 11 years. With Wales facing Slovakia days later, Ryan Giggs rested his frontline players, although Chris Gunter and Ashley Williams were in the starting XI and their combined 176 caps dwarfed the rest of the XI’s mere 70 (41 of which were supplied by Neil Taylor). A debut was handed to Will Vaulks and, as a half-time replacement, Adam Davies.
And it was Vaulks who supplied the last minute cross for Ben Woodburn to bundle home his second international goal to seal an unconvincing win. He’s not featured for Wales since.
Wales vs Concacaf