At this present moment in time, Wales still have a mathematical chance of making it to Euro 2016 (it’s not often I get to say that). In truth we haven’t played a game yet and our first game is Tuesday 9th September 2014 in Andorra (or will it?). These qualifying campaigns are usually either over before it gets going or full of heartache and bad luck. With 24 teams now being able to qualify for the Euros in France, surely Wales won’t slip up this time!?
With two automatic places up for grabs, I am hoping that Wales will have a chance of getting into that 2nd automatic place, or at least take it to the last game! Our group includes two teams that played at the World Cup in Brazil. Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Israel and Andorra
We start our campaign in Andorra, (a team Wales have never faced before). Without trying to sound disrespectful, despite all the problems with Andorra’s new artificial pitch, we should be beating them on any surface. But no doubt something will come out with ‘But there are no easy games in International football.’
Andorra la Vella
In the last two campaigns we have lost our opening game, a 1-0 defeat to Montenegro in the Euro 2012 campaign and a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the World Cup 2014 campaign (No thanks to James Collins!). I am hoping that we can get a win against Andorra, anything less than that, for me, will be a disappointment, as Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina will not slip up against them. If we do fail to win then we don’t deserve to qualify and Coleman could be out of a job, like Toshack was when we lost to Montenegro.
Part of the reason that our Euro 2004 campaign under Mark Hughes started so well was the crowd got behind Wales in their numbers, obviously the Millennium Stadium being new also helped. Never since that night against Italy have I experienced such a great atmosphere, it’s a shame it ended so badly. But it was great to see so many people supporting Wales at that time. Gary Speed was starting to bring the crowds back until his, still very sad death.
The main man, Gareth Bale
People can support who they want and I would never tell people who can and can’t support, even though people suggest who I should and shouldn’t support to me, but that’s another story! So I’m not going to urge you all to get behind the Welsh team, as it’s your choice. But don’t ask me for tickets should we need a win against Andorra at home to qualify.
What I would say though are personally, some people’s reasons for not supporting Wales are a little baffling, from both the Swansea fans and the Cardiff fans side. Ranging from ‘I’d go if they didn’t play in Cardiff’ to ‘I don’t go as Ashley Williams is captain’. I’d rather people say they don’t watch Wales because they aren’t interested!
Maybe if we get 6 points from our first two games, there will be a big walk-up crowd for the match against Cyprus, but let’s take one step at a time. Winning the home games in qualifiers are vital, because if we need to go to war torn Israel and a boiling hot Cyprus needing wins it’s going to be very very tough. (I’ve written off Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovnia away).
As far as the squad goes, obviously Chris Coleman is very limited to who he can choose from, unfortunately Wales don’t have an out and out goal scorer, but the midfield is great and the defence is pretty good. My only other worry is the goalkeeper situation, Wayne Hennessey doesn’t play for Crystal Palace regularly and with Boaz Myhill’s retirement (who wasn’t that great anyway), we have Kyle Letheren (who?) and Owain Fon Williams – who must be tired of never getting a game.
We have some decent midfield youngsters to choose from George Williams of Fulham and Emyr Hughes, who is on loan to Wigan. Tom Lawrence (Man Utd) is in the squad, along with uncapped Paul Dummett (Newcastle) who are also uncapped, will hopefully strengthen us. As all Welsh fans say before every campaign, if we play our strongest team then we have a chance.
In the last campaign I was pleasantly surprised we managed to take 4 points from our last 2 games (Macedonia and Belgium) with about 65 players injured. Okay an exaggeration but there was no Bale and a make-shift defence and a player I had never heard of. Hopefully a sign of things to come. Thankfully James Collins has pulled out with an injury (again) and Jermaine Easter didn’t get have a free holiday this time, for the trip to Andorra.
It is one of my life dreams to see Wales qualify for a major tournament, I believe it will happen one day. Hopefully luck can be on our side, going to World Cup in Brazil and seeing all the fans all excitement at their team actually being there made me wonder what our fans would be like.
Where Wales will be playing on 10th July 2016
On a side note, another reason why I love watching Wales are the places I get to visit. Without having Wales and football as a reason I’d never have gone to half the places I have done. Going to Skopje in Macedonia is probably my favourite city, I’d never really have thought about visiting there otherwise. Okay Wales lost the game, but the trip was brilliant. Apart from the 90 minutes against Serbia I had a fantastic trip, so hoping it’ll be the same this time around – though I haven’t booked my trip to Israel yet.
I will be at the Euros in France in 2016, but hoping Wales will get there too. For those of you going to Barcelona/Andorra, see you there!