Wales

Wales national football team
Wales

World Cup Participation

1958, 2022

Championships:

None

Wales Soccer Team History

Beginnings

One of the oldest national teams in world soccer, Wales played their first match in 1876. Scotland beat Wales 4-0 and Wales won their first match in 1882 vs. Northern Ireland.

The first Wales World Cup appearance was in 1958 and the 1950’s are often referred to as a “Golden Era” for Wales. They qualified in strange circumstances as none of Indonesia, Egypt and Sudan would play Israel in the Asian/African qualifying zone. So, Israel were winners by default.

Lots were drawn of all of the second place UEFA teams to see who would contest a playoff match with Israel for a World Cup berth. Belgium was drawn initially but refused to play, so Wales were next up. The Wales soccer team defeated Israel both home and away to seal their first World Cup berth.

Draws vs. Hungary, Mexico and Sweden were enough for Wales to advance to the knockout stage. Star striker John Charles was injured for the quarterfinals and Pele became the youngest World Cup goalscorer, as Brazil beat Wales 1-0.

Wales national football team made the quarterfinals of the 1976 European Championship but are not officially considered to have taken part. That’s because only four teams made the tournament at the time and Wales were eliminated by Yugoslavia in the playoff round.

During their long World Cup drought, Wales nearly qualified for the 1982 World Cup but missed out on goal difference. One of Wales’s best ever wins came in 1991 when they defeated defending World Cup champions Germany in a Euro ‘92 qualifier.

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Second Golden Generation

Gary Speed was appointed manager in late 2010 and Wales reached their lowest ever ranking of 117 the next August. With 20-year old Aaron Ramsey as captain, Wales rattled off four wins in their next five. Then, they moved up to 45th and became the biggest movers in the rankings that year. Tragically, Speed committed suicide in November of 2011 but helped laid the foundation for an exciting era of Welsh football.

With exciting talents like Gareth Bale and Ramsey, Wales attained their highest ever FIFA ranking of eighth in 2015. They also qualified for the Euros for the first time ever in 2016.

It took Bale just 10 minutes to open his scoring account at the tournament as Wales defeated Slovakia 2-1. A 90th minute Daniel Sturridge winner sealed a 2-1 victory for England over Wales in the second match. Then, Ramsey, Neil Taylor and Bale all got on the scoresheet as they destroyed Russia 3-0 in the group stage finale.

Finishing on top of their group, Wales defeated British rivals Northern Ireland in the round of 16. After falling behind 1-0 vs. a talented Belgium side in the quarterfinals, Wales scored three unanswered goals to win. Following an incredible run, Wales met their demise in the semifinals vs. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.

Wales national football team qualified for a second consecutive Euro in 2020, which the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back to 2021. The Dragons finished second in their group but fell 4-0 to Denmark in the round of 16.

With wins over Austria and Ukraine in the playoff round, Wales qualified for their first World Cup since 1958 in 2022.

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