Wales v Switzerland

Wales v Switzerland Match Programme CoverWith Wales’ chances of qualifying for Euro 2012 extinguished quite some time ago, perhaps the most significant point about this match was that it was the very first senior competitive international to be held at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

Switzerland still harboured hopes of qualification – pending other results going their way – whereas for Wales the game was all about building on the win over Montenegro and the encouraging (if undeserved) defeat against England.

On a personal note, this was my son’s very first Wales international game and it’s somewhat bizarre to think that almost 30 years ago today, I too went to watch my very first Wales game at Swansea’s now defunct Vetch Field.

I remember that game for all the wrong reasons, as it was the infamous 1982 World Cup qualifier against Iceland on 14th October 1981, when the floodlights failed and the game was abandoned at 2-2 .  It was also the night the lights went out on our qualifying campaign too!

Fast forward 30 years and here I was explaining to my son about the subtle differences between watching the Swans play and international football – the anthems, the away fans travelling from Europe, the different languages (not dissimilar to the Premier League I know!), qualification for a tournament, play acting, etc.  The majority of which – as you can imagine – flew right over the head of a 7 year old!!

Thankfully the inclusion of Swans’ Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and Joe Allen in the starting line-up did at least mean he recognised some of the players 🙂

Spot the Swans
Spot the Swans

Prior to kick-off, in my heart I was praying for an exciting game with goals and a Wales win, but my head felt we were more likely to see a drab stalemate between what I felt were two evenly matched sides.

After an impeccably observed minutes silence from the 12,300 odd crowd (take note some West Bromwich Albion fans) – in memory of Mike Dye and the Gleision Miners – the game kicked off with Wales quickly on the front foot.

Regular readers will know that I’m no Henry Winter or Harry Harris and as a result I’ll always leave the match reporting stuff to the professionals.  I will however give my take on what I saw (possibly through rose tinted spectacles I hasten to add).

  • The Welsh build up play was excellent but the final pass or movement in the final 3rd was poor and as a result numerous half decent chances were wasted;
  • Switzerland seemed content to rely on breaking quickly and attacking at set-peices.  Tactics which I suspect is the reason they don’t score that many goals;
  • Wayne Hennessey didn’t have a great deal to do, although I do find him suspect under crosses;
  • Craig Bellamy is as exciting as he is frustrating – good one minute, poor the next.  He does some good creative work with the ball creating opportunities for himself/others and yet on other occasions gives the ball away far too easily;
  • Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor were excellent in defence and you can see the benefit of them having played in Premier League – even after only a short time.  Confident, classy and experienced;
  • Joe Allen did extremely well in his first full start in a Wales senior jersey, although he didn’t have as much foot on the ball time as he is accustomed to due to that role being assumed by skipper Aaron Ramsey.  One sublime trap and swivel on the edge of the penalty area and subsequent pass upfield sticks in my mind though;
Spot the ball
Spot the ball
  • The 700 or so colourful Switzerland fans were in good – if repetitive – voice until the hour mark (when Wales scored).  I do hope they found their cow(s) eventually as well… although the constant ringing of the bells seemed to indicate that they hadn’t.  They also had a class “Love Swiss Football and Welsh Pubs” banner too;
  • Those in the crowd can’t have failed to be impressed by the constant Swiss chanting throughout the game of Ole, which actually sounded sort of like “Ashley” – but spoken with a German accent 😉
  • The Welsh fans chanting/singing (if you can call it that) was sporadic to say the least and was mainly undertaken by the large numbers of exuberant teenagers in attendance – which was great to see.  ‘Twas a bit chilly for being topless though lads!;
  • The various Welsh flags draped around the Liberty – Jacs y Gogledd, Wrexham Reds, Y Fflint, Carmarthen Jacks, Caneri Cymraeg – seemed to indicate a good cross-Wales spread of support, but one which didn’t necessarily always ‘come together’ for their country (which is a shame);

Switzerland fans in Swansea

  • I counted at least two occasions when Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy had a difference of opinion on certain passages of play.  Both of which Ramsey appeared to largely ignore, rather than react.  In troubled times, I suspect this sort of behaviour could become divisive;
  • Gareth Bale is incredibly fast and caused Switzerland umpteen problems on the wing.  I’d love to see him and Nathan Dyer have a race down the wing;
  • After Wales scored the 2nd goal, they sat back inviting pressure from Switzerland.  This wasn’t helped by some casual defending by Darcy Blake, Andrew Crofts and David Vaughan – much to the displeasure of Ashley Williams (whom told them so too!);
  • Steve Morison’s workrate was excellent and I can see him being a handful for Norwich when they entertain the Swans a week Saturday;
  • Never give children in your company too much to drink (non-alcoholic) whilst watching the game, as invariably they need to go to the toilet during either half!
  • The Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers was the target of abuse from both sets of fans – which illustrates what a great game he had (not).  Maybe he should stick to running his supermarket;
  • The £3 match programme was shocking – lacking in content (and any real depth) and sparse at 50 pages – including 15 pages of adverts!  In fact I’ve seen better League One programmes;

The electronic scoreboard says it all

So yet another improved performance by Wales and more importantly a win – not to mention a rare clean sheet.  We could now finish as high as 3rd in the group, should we do well in Bulgaria on Tuesday and other results go our way.  Now I didn’t think I’d be saying that 2 months ago!
Thankfully my heart had for once got the better of my head and we saw goals and a Wales victory, even if perhaps the game wasn’t that exciting.  No matter though, both I and more importantly my son enjoyed and the suggestion of going to watch a Wales ‘away’ game was met with great enthusiasm.
Only time will tell if he’s got the international football bug, but lets hope the Football Association of Wales see sense and schedule more competitive games in the future at either the Liberty Stadium or Parc y Scarlets.
The home of Premier League football in Wales
The home of Premier League football in Wales
Give the youngsters of west Wales a chance to watch THEIR country in their own backyard, they are the support of the future.  Cymru am byth.