Tournament Guide: Wales

By David Stringer


Population: 3,063,456 (2011 census)

Motto: Cymru am byth

Language: Welsh, English

Symbols: Red Dragon, Daffodil, leek

Capital: Cardiff

National Anthem: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers)

Highest FIFA Ranking: 8

Lowest FIFA Ranking: 117

Current FIFA Ranking: 24 (as of April 2016)

First International: 4-0 loss to Scotland, March 1876

Brief Historical Overview

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) was founded in Wrexham in February 1876 making it the third oldest football association in the world behind England and Scotland. The reasoning behind the creation of the FAW was to be able to compete against Scotland and England. Their first international match was a 4-0 defeat to the Scottish team in March 1876. However despite its age, the FAW has had little success on the international level.

From the first World Cup in 1930 and the first Euro Cup in 1960 Wales have only qualified for two international competitions. The 1958 World Cup in Sweden and the upcoming 2016 Euro Cup in France. There have been close qualifications in the intervening period, the closest being the 2004 Euro Cup in which Wales lost in the playoffs of qualifying to Russia. They had been hopeful during the qualifying due to a surprise win over European powerhouse Italy. This drought has seen some of the greatest welsh players of all time fail to represent their country at the international level including the most decorated soccer player of all time, Ryan Giggs.

In 1958 Wales shouldn’t have even been in the world cup. However due to a political issue regarding Israel and the Middle East Israel as the default qualifiers out of its region without playing a match. FIFA wouldn’t allow this and as such arranged a playoff game between a randomly selected European team and Israel to determine the final World Cup spot. Wales was selected as that team and defeated Israel. In Sweden Wales joined the rest of the UK in their only World Cup appearance and the only time all 4 parts of the UK competed in a major international competition. Wales, lead by their star player of the era John Charles, performed respectfully managing to qualify for the knockout stage. However the team would be knocked out by the eventual champions Brazil in the quarterfinals 1-0. The winning goal was scored by a 17 year old called Edson Arantes do Nascimento, his first ever World Cup goal and the one that ended Wales’ only world cup finals appearance. Nascimento is the full name of one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Pele.

Euro 2016

In October 2015 the 58 year drought for Wales finally ended when they qualified for the 2016 Euro Cup as the runners up of their group. A qualifying phase that was highlighted by a 1-0 win over Belgium (one of the tournament favorites) on June 12th 2015. After half a century the Welsh national team finally had reached a level of respectable play that showed in both their qualifying for the Euro Cup and in (find date) their highest ever FIFA ranking of 8. At the time England was ranked (find rank) making it not only the first time in Welsh history that they had been ranked ahead of England internationally but were also the highest ranked team from the UK. As with past teams, the 2016 qualifying team featured one superstar player who lead the team and who the nation is behind, Gareth Bale. Bale, who plays for Real Madrid, is also the only member of the national team who plays outside of the UK.

The team that will be competing in the upcoming European Cup is probably one of the best Wales has managed to put together in recent years. The big shame is that Ryan Giggs and the late Gareth Speed, both iconic Welsh players, will never have played for their country at this level. Despite the relatively limited experience the national team has compared to England, Wales does have a chance to do well (if Greece can win the Euro Wales can) so long as they stick to a defensive style and utilize goal scorers like Bale to win games. Although another player on Bale’s level would be great seeing as only three other possible starters play for big Premier League teams.

The most interesting thing, and the only game I am really interested in watching in the group stage, is that Wales and England have been drawn in the same group together. Other than the nationalistic rivalry between the two countries it will be interesting to see two of the oldest soccer teams face off in a major competition for the first time. In addition Wales (along with Scotland) has its own national anthem: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, which will have to be played alongside God Save our Queen when the two teams play. To add to the nationalistic nature of the teams the Welsh anthem is written and sung in the Welsh language, a language very different from English, and actually includes a line in the course that says, “O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau”. That line roughly translates to “O may our old language endure” so a direct attack of sorts at England and a great example of national tensions between the countries. If it is anything like the Rugby rivalry between the nations it should be an intense game.

In all this is Wales’s best chance to show what they can do at the second highest international competition in the world (depending on who you ask) and their team has the potential to upset the tournament. Hopefully Wales wont have to wait another 58 years before seeing international competition again.

Providing the players don’t get injured in any upcoming club matches the squad for the Welsh national team should be similar to the squad who helped Wales qualify. While it is hard to correctly predict the starters and formations that will be used in the tournament, because the exact line-up and formation Coach Chris Coleman will use won’t be known until nearer the time, the possible squad is:



Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace)

Kyle Letheren (Dundee)

Danny Ward (Liverpool)

Owain Williams (Inversess)




James Chester (West Bromich Albion)

James Collins (West Ham United)

Ben Davies (Tottenham)

Chris Gunter (Reading)

Ashley Richard (Fulham)

Neil Taylor (Swansea)

Ashley Williams (Swansea)

Paul Dummett (Newcastle)

Morgan Fox (Charlton)

Danny Gabbidon (Panteg AFC)

Adam Henley (Blackburn)

Declan John (Cardiff)

Adam Matthews (Bristol)

Sam Ricketts (Coventry)

Joseph Walsh (MK Dons)

Jordan Williams (Swindon)




Joe Allen (Liverpool)

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

David Edwards (Wolves)

Emyr Huws (Huddersfield)

Andy King (Leicester)

Tom Lawrence (Blackburn)

Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace)

Shaun MacDonald (Bournemouth)

Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

David Vaughn (Nottingham Forest)

Jonathan Williams (MK Dons)

Gwion Edwards (Crawley)




Simon Church (MK Dons)

David Cotterill (Birmingham)

Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading)

Jake Taylor (Exeter)

Sam Vokes (Burnley)

George Williams (MK Dons)


These predictions are based of the players who were selected for the qualifying phase of the Euro Cup though not all of them played during the qualifying process. The player to watch will be Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey but as with any tournament one of the more underrated players could step up when needed and show their worth.

Works Cited:

Sanderson, Pete (2003), “Wales ready to halt run”, BBC Sports,

How to cite this page:

“Tournament Guide: Wales” by David Stringer (2016), European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, on (date))