With approximately 3 million inhabitants according to latest statistics, the nation of Wales has not been renowned for producing a succession of world famous sporting superstars over the years, but within with the past 12 months the rugby union and football teams representing their country have produced displays which will be remembered for many years to come. Beating England at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup and then qualifying for the Euro 2016 football finals in France are already considered as great moments in Welsh sport and there was no great disappointment when both teams were beaten at the weekend.
Wales were beaten 15-9 by a strong Australian team in their final group game in the Rugby World Cup, currently being staged in England and Cardiff, but they had already been assured of qualification for the quarter-finals by virtue of a prior 28-25 defeat of England. That win was celebrated as if the team had already won the World Cup such is the rivalry between the two national rugby union teams, and the success was only achieved via a late Gareth Davies try and even later penalty scored by Dan Biggar.
Despite a series of injuries, Wales managed to silence the home supporters and secure a quarter-final tie against South Africa to be played at Twickenham next weekend, and who would bet against the Welsh team beating a team already exposed by the Japanese in an earlier game.
As for the Welsh national football team, qualification for a major football tournament had been elusive since their involvement in the 1958 World Cup, but some hope was offered by drawn in Group B for the Euro 2016 qualifiers with Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra comprising the other contenders.
With two teams qualifying automatically for the French summer tournament and the third placed team expected to contest the playoff, Wales were hopeful of finishing at least third with the Belgians expected to dominate the group.
Yet prior to the weekend games, Wales were unbeaten in the group, had amassed four points from their two ties with Belgium and had conceded just two goals. A point in Bosnia would have ensured qualification but their 2-0 defeat became irrelevant as nearest challengers Israel lost 2-1 to Cyprus to ensure that Wales would finish in one of the top two positions.
The final home game for Wales will now become more of a celebration match, with Andorra not expected to provide much opposition, having lost all nine games to date. However, it would be unwise to overlook the Welsh team when they compete in France as Gareth Bale, Ashley Williams and Aaron Ramsey offer a decent spine to the team and they will have nothing to lose given that they will be considered outsiders.
Both the national rugby and football teams of Wales will be considered legends by their passionate home fans should they achieve any further success in their respective tournaments.
Latest posts by John Welsh (see all)
- The Premier League title destination remains uncertain in an unpredictable season to date - December 31, 2015
- England win opening test as South African batting frailties are exposed - December 30, 2015
- Cue Card and Sprinter Sacre erase the nightmares of their miserable 2013 Christmas - December 29, 2015