EURO 2016 TO WORLD CUP 2022: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF WALES NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM
After defining the odds in Euro 2016 the Welsh football squad has been on the up. Successfully qualifying for back to back euros, they now turn to the world cup qualifiers in weird circumstances.
Going back after Euro 2016, Wales focus turned to the world cup qualifiers with Chris Coleman at the helm hoping to lead the Welsh squad to glory. After making a promising start with a 4-0 win over Moldova and a 2-2 draw away to Austria the world cup qualifiers looked promising. Four games later however, Wales only picked up four points but still remained unbeaten after four draws with Ireland, Georgia and Serbia twice. For Wales to have any chance of picking up a second place finish (which would guarantee them a play-off game) they would need to win all four. Wales went on to win three of their four games, beating Austria 1-0, beating Moldova 2-0 and finally beating Georgia 1-0. The last game of the campaign had it all to play for with a must win home game against Ireland. Wales lost the game 1-0 with James McClean scoring the only goal and diminishing the chance for Wales to feature in a world cup for the first time since 1958.
After the heartbreaking defeat to Ireland, a new age was born with Chris Coleman leaving for Sunderland. Wales turned to ex-Wales player Ryan Giggs to try and lead this young team to glory once again. Wales were promised a young and exciting team with an attractive way of playing and right from the start Wales were given it with a 4-1 win over Ireland in the first game of the nations league. Wales ended up 2nd in the nations league group with Denmark topping the group.
Next they turned their sights to the euro qualifiers to try and make history again. Wales started off their campaign well with a 1-0 win over Slovakia at home thanks to a Dan James rocket. Wales then suffered back to back losses away from home to Croatia and Hungary. Giggs had to raise his team performances to stand any chance of qualifying. The next 3 games Wales picked up 5 points with a 2-1 win over Azerbaijan and 1-1 draws with Slovakia and Croatia. It was all to play for in the last 2 games, as 2 wins would guarantee a spot in Euro 2020. Wales beat both Finland and Hungary 2-0 to qualify for back to back euros. Giggs proved many fans wrong and qualified with this young Welsh squad.
Wales then turned to the Nations League again, Wales remained unbeaten during the campaign only drawing once to Ireland. Wales suffered a big blow towards the end of the Nations league with Ryan Giggs getting arrested and the FAW decided it was best for him to miss the end of the Nations league with the ongoing court case he has. Rob Page took charge of the remaining games guarennting Wales a 1st place finish in the Nations League and guaranteeing them a play off game for the world cup if they don't finish 1st or 2nd.
Rob Page would still lead Wales into their world cup qualifying games against Belgium and Czech Republic, with the hope of a successful campaign and with the hope that Giggs could return for the Euros which never happened. Wales started with a loss which was expected to number one sided Belgium away from home, Wales then picked up an important win at home against Czech republic to put Wales in good stead for the remaining qualifying games.
The groups have been announced, the summer is in full swing and Wales are getting ready to try and conquer the best teams in Europe again, without a manager. Wales had already done the nation proud when qualifying for back to back Euros so expectations weren't high again. Nobody gave Wales a chance in making it out of the group stages but they proved the doubters once again. With a 1-1 draw with Switzerland and a 2-0 win over Turkey, Wales all but guaranteed themselves a spot into the knockout stages, with a final 1-0 loss to eventual winners Italy. Wales finished 2nd and were preparing to face Denmark in the next round. Wales were later knocked out to high flying Denmark 4-0 who later made it to the semi-finals. This is seen as a successful tournament for Wales proving many people wrong again without a manager.
The next steps for Wales? The obvious next step will be to sort out the managers position as soon as possible, either way it's likely Rob Page will be leading Wales into the final World Cup qualifying games. The next major step for Wales now will be trying to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, with the young and promising squad they got and with the help of the guaranteed play off space, we really should be seeing the Red Wall out in their numbers to watch Wales play in their first world cup since 1958.
With the young and promising side Wales have got Euro 2020 won't be the last time you see Wales play at a major tournament. Wales have got an exciting time ahead of them with little expectations for them. The Red Wall will be sure to have an exciting time ahead of them.