Wales: Don’t Dream it’s Over

This morning feels a little disparate, desperate, desolate. I am trying hard to catch the deluge in any sort of cup. It is like new year. Christmas has gone, the decorations are down, the house feels empty and you can only wait until it comes round again. It’s nearly 11’0 clock but I have yet to eat breakfast having been up till 5am watching the dragons play and be slain by a team who in technical terms should never have gotten to a semi-final yet did and won. If there was ever a time to beat Portugal that was it. I suppose you could say the good ship Wales is a bit like the Titanic, they can withstand going one goal under but not two and having been wounded you hope their hearts will go on.

We have been fortunate, perhaps too fortunate these last couple of weeks. We got through the group stage, we scraped past Northern Ireland and then hit a belter against Belgium. The signs were good that we could and should have beaten what can best be described as a Portuguese side that was – until last night – devastatingly dull. Three draws, a win after extra time and another via a penalty shoot out. Their methodical laziness has gotten them to a final. On a plus side, we don’t have to wonder what will happen next? Where are Greece now? It is probably better to leave the party now although losing to France or Germany would have been more acceptable to me. These are teams who deserve to be where they are, not just blagging it and turn it on because they have to.

There are as always pros and cons to this. One, we got to a semi-finals that perhaps we too shouldn’t have. Let’s examine this. We beat Slovakia – ok good. Then we give away the second game to a lack lustre England (while playing in black or grey or whatever that is). Next we beat Russia but it’s hardly Russia as we know them. We are then gifted a foot from Ulster to guide us through to the last eight but had we played France or Germany or Italy would we have gotten that far? There is of course no way of knowing. In other words football championships whether they be the EURO’s or the WORLD CUP are a bit like life itself; a lottery. Last night our numbers refused to come up. Nonetheless Wales – as history will show – got to the semi-finals of a major championship. History has not been so kind to our efforts of 1976 which for some reason are null and void.

From a managerial perspective Chris Coleman did everything he could do. Without Ramsey you have to field what you have. Sadly nothing gelled, the balls didn’t fall. To that end our players were not at fault. Football is a game of beauty but what drama is anything without cruelty? Those two goals – coming as they did in as many minutes – felt like our lungs being punctured. For many years’ watching the faces of other teams supporters, the emotional intensity was lost on us Welsh. Now I understand the anxiety, the anguish, the hope, the joy (of winning) and the devastating pain of loss from a different angle; not from failure to qualify but to reach a summit. Is this what it feels like when dragons cry?

As Oscar Wilde famously said on his death bed ‘Either that wallpaper goes or I go.’ It is evident we don’t play as well in other colours, the red seems to be deeply entrenched in the Welsh psyche. Last night we died in a strip as bleak as a valley sky though there are  rainbows. Wales now have experience in a major tournament, something Rush, Hughes and Giggs never achieved. Can they repeat the formula during the next World Cup qualifiers? Time will show us. And the irony, where does the prize of qualification take us? Back to Russia. Oh well, at least it isn’t Portugal. I could see Wales playing in that green though, what do you reckon?

PROS

Our fans are among the best behaved in terms of travelling football supporters. The stands were awash with red but it is a different red to Turkey or indeed Portugal and it felt good to finally have our faces, voices and banners in the crowd.

We proved we can achieve as a team, not just Bale. In essence the fun starts now with the attention turning to… Who will win the bid for Robson-Kanu?

The tournament has provided invaluable experience to both players, management and the current players that will potentially form the management team of the future.

It helps get Wales out there (hopefully more people will be aware of where Wales is) which in turn could aid business into/out of Wales.

CONS

We need to ditch the black/grey strip.

With great respect to him, Wayne Hennessey needs to catch not fend off – it could’ve easily been 4-0 (I’d be tempted to field Danny Ward more often).

We are still too ropey in defence and too complacent. We lost the two games we should have easily won!

England’s Adam Lallana is better, more measured/composed in press conferences.

Our video antics after England v Iceland were not wise and backfired (many of the English fans were supportive of Wales).

We need to play tougher opponents like France to test how good we really are. I fancy some friendlies.

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