Wales hope to repeat history after USA draw
|Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listings – Full coverage details|
Even in unfamiliar territory, Wales will feel like you’ve been here before.
Playing in their first World Cup for 64 years, Wales became a familiar savior to Gareth Bale as he grabbed a point from the fire in his opening game against the United States.
And although since 1958 they did not honor this stage, wales they can turn to more recent history for inspiration as they plan their way to Qatar.
Having been absent from major tournaments for 58 years, Wales have qualified for three out of four since 2016. And it is the most recent of these, last year’s delayed Euro 2020, which could be the template for progress in this World Cup.
In the sweltering heat of Azerbaijan, Wales’ first match of 2021 did not go to plan as they went down 1-0 at half-time against Switzerland, whose lead did not reflect their dominance.
On that occasion, a Kieffer Moore header earned Wales a 1-1 draw and set the stage for the second group game in which they blew away Turkey to take a huge step towards the second round.
In Qatar, on Monday night, there was an echo of the beginning of this campaign in Baku.
Wales were thoroughly outplayed by the United States in the first half and were lucky only to be 1-0 up at half-time, before Moore’s introduction transformed them.
Bale, their captain, all-time top scorer and chief scorer, conjured up another decisive moment with a late penalty.
Wales hadn’t been here for 64 years and yet it looked like a movie they’d seen before.
“The goal was exactly what we needed,” Bale said.
“It didn’t matter who scored it and it gave us a leg up to try and win it. I felt we played really well in the second half.
“Personally, it was great to get the goal, but the most important thing was that the team scored. You just have to keep the momentum going, bounce back and go again.”
This latter-day Bale isn’t quite the all-action winger of a decade ago, but he’s still a winner, who at 33 now has to pick his moments; “wise” and “smart,” as Page said after the game.
Bale is still capable of rolling back the years and producing vintage-quality performances, as he did for the aforementioned win over Turkey at Euro 2020.
Bale, Moore and the rest of the Wales players adapted during that game against Switzerland, survived the onslaught and put themselves in a position where beating Turkey took them to the cusp of the last 16.
On Monday night against the USA, those same players helped ensure Wales completed the first leg of their repeat of the trick.
After an opening draw, they must now beat Iran on Friday to take a similar step towards the second round of the World Cup.
“Lessons have been learned,” Page said. “It was important that we didn’t lose the game.
“We have some tired bodies so we have to prepare a team to come back on Friday.
“The best thing we have is if you look at the bench right now, we have Brennan [Johnson] playing in the Premier League, he came in and made an impact, Kieffer came in and made an impact.
“We have strength in depth. I can look over my shoulder on the bench and we have players who can come in and have a real impact on games.”
At Euro 2020, Wales reached the last 16 despite losing their final group game to Italy, who went on to win the tournament.
They conclude their group stage at this World Cup with a match against England next Tuesday.
As for their own fate, Wales would be delighted to repeat at Euro 2020. The goodwill may not extend to wanting their final group opponents to lift the trophy again.
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