“Little Old Wales” Are Heading To Their First World Cup In 64 Years . . . After Emotional Evening In The Capital

Dafydd Iwan and 30,000 Welsh fans sing 'Yma O Hyd' as Wales qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Pic: Gety Images.

“Little Old Wales” Are Heading To Their First World Cup In 64 Years . . . After Emotional Evening In The Capital

By Stuart Taylor

Some still find it hard to believe that “little old Wales” are heading to Qatar in November to take their place in Group B alongside the USA,  Iran and England at the World Cup.

Ukraine’s inspiring and emphatic 3-1 victory over Scotland had set up a winner takes all play-off with Wales in Cardiff.

“Aw well… let poor Wales become the most hated country in the world,” said Scottish author and fan Irvine Welsh following Scotland’s defeat.

Wales and its football team have been dismissed, mocked, and even pitied over the years, but hopefully never hated.

Ahead of their winner takes all play-off match against Ukraine in Cardiff, there was still a sense of trepidation that June 5, 2022, wouldn’t be the day Wales qualified for their first World Cup since 1958.

Given the situation with the war in Ukraine, many believed the hand of destiny would play a significant part in deciding the winner.

As kick-off approached, the sense of impending failure did not subside for Mr Optimstic.

“It’s sunny for the Queen. P***ing down for Dafydd Iwan,” he wrote as the folk singer belted out his own anthem Yma O Hyd ahead of kick-off.

“My mind is racing. Really worried now. Wales is not just playing a football match; we are going against the grain of geopolitics. A weird decision in the last 10 minutes of the game or something. What rotten f***ing luck,” he added.

Our friend failed to remember that Wales were playing a football match, not competing in the Eurovision song contest, where, rightly or wrongly, sympathy came into play as the voting public ensured Kalush Orchestra was crowned the winner.

A nervous but hopeful Wales crowd dared to dream following a free-kick from Wales captain Gareth Bale, headed in by the unfortunate Andriy Yarmolenko, which gave Wales the lead at half-time.

It was a lead they did not relinquish, thanks in no small part to keeper Wayne Hennessey, who made nine saves from Ukraine’s nine shots on target.

Ukraine’s squad and coaches applauded the 1,800 fans at the away end before producing their version of the Icelandic clap. Wales supporters around Cardiff City Stadium joined in with the clap during a touching moment of solidarity, which visibly meant a lot to Ukrainian the players.

Then wild celebrations, much in disbelief as ecstasy, were put on hold. As the visiting players departed the scene down the tunnel, Wales players and coaching staff stood and applauded the 1,800 Ukrainian supporters inside the Cardiff City Stadium.

“We just wanted to show our appreciation to them and what they’re going through as a nation. I thought their team were outstanding in the two games, and they deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done, and their supporters as well. So we wanted to show them that respect, “said Wales boss Robert Page.

After the final whistle, a jubilant Aaron Ramsey said:’It’s unbelievable! Little old Wales are going to the World Cup!”

After the match, Ukraine midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk also praised Ramsey for his kind words.

“I will never forget the Cardiff locker room,”  wrote Sydorchuk on Instagram.


 “For 20 minutes after the match, we just sat in silence. Our fans are the best. Thank you, everyone. But I also want to thank the fans from Scotland and Wales.

“I also want to thank the rivals. Especially Aaron Ramsey, who went into the locker room after the match and approached everyone,” he added.

Ukraine’s boss Oleksandr Petrakov received a warm welcome by the media during his press conference, followed by a round of applause.

“I would like to express my gratitude to Wales, and I wish your team all possible luck in the World Cup. Ukraine is very grateful to Wales. Thank you.” he said.

Wales fans are well known for their incredible support and impeccable sportsmanship; UEFA bestowed them with the “outstanding contribution” award, such was the impact they made during Euro 2016, and it seems The Red Wall has made an impression on Ukrainian fans too

One fan, Oskana, arrived in Cardiff three weeks ago: “I feel very nice and calm here. Welsh people are so open-hearted and so kind. What Welsh people do is from the depths of their hearts.”

Walking into a pub on match day as an away football supporter can be a daunting prospect in most countries, especially when there is only of you – but we pride ourselves on being a little bit different in Wales.

“We lost our friends and went to the first cute pub in search of beer,” explained Ukrainian fan Yurii Kovryzhenko. They ended up in Cardiff’s Queens Vaults, packed with Wales supporters.

“When we went inside, we felt like the characters of a comedy movie, in an episode where fans of the one club go to the bar, a hub of the opponent’s club. In such movies, the music usually stops playing at this moment, everyone falls silent, and something terrible begins! So we were very tense. But it’s not a movie, it’s life, and in Cardiff, it’s great.”

“In a moment, we were invited to the table by the Welsh, and we had a pint of beer with them.,” he said.

Yurii, who lives in London, added: “Impressions of Cardiff and the Welsh are extremely wonderful! This friendliness and solidarity helped me feel a little bit better after the morning news from Ukraine.”

To know that our fans, along with the players and management group, show respect and humility is arguably far more important than realising the dream of making a second World Cup tournament.

In a small way, it encapsulates what it means to be Welsh.

It is paramount that “little old Wales” and its people are portrayed the right way to a global audience, especially when we are often dismissed as “just a small part of England.”

We must continue to show that Wales football fans are different from England fans, especially when our English counterparts continue to be blighted by the deportable behaviour of large sections of their fan base.

This week, the latest in a long line of violent misconduct and racist behaviour happened in Munich ahead of England’s Nations League match with Germany on Tuesday night which ended in a 1-1 draw.

England fans were reportedly arrested for making Nazi salutes, and another fan caused damage inside a hotel after he let off a flare. In addition, bars in the city closed early due to England fans causing a brawl.

The fans were issued an on the spot fine and made to pay 200 Euros, roughly £170, by armed police.

As referenced above, Wales and their captain Gareth Bale are already being dismissed by sections of the English media ahead of the World Cup.

“He’s not the force he was, Gareth Bale, and when you look at this group, England should win it at a canter,” claimed talkSPORT presenter Alex Crook.

“Iran, USA and Wales. That is as easy a group as you can get because this Wales team, despite how much we’ve been lauding them for what they achieved yesterday, I don’t think it is as good a team as England faced in 2016.”

“Gareth Bale was at the peak of his powers back then. Aaron Ramsey was much fitter and much sharper. They had people like Ashley Williams at the back. You look at the squad now; there’s a lot of players playing outside the Premier League.”

As a football team and as a nation, Wales are well-versed in the role they continue to play as the underdog. It’s a role we play well and will continue to thrive in Qatar in November.

Wales football fans will never forget how far they have come from when talkSPORT thought it was acceptable to question our right to exist as a nation.

“Wales are now ranked below the Faroe Islands in 112th place in the latest FIFA rankings, meaning they’ll be in the bottom pot of seeds for the 2014 World Cup draw,” TalkSport posted on their social media accounts in 2011.

“With the GB Olympic football team debate still going strong, is it time for Wales to admit they will never qualify for a major tournament and pool resources with England and Scotland?”

Oh, how we laugh and sing Yma O Hyd – We’re Still Here.

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