|Nickname(s)||The Dragons (Welsh: Y Dreigiau)|
|Association||Football Association of Wales (FAW)|
|Head coach||Chris Coleman|
|Most caps||Neville Southall (92)|
|Top scorer||Ian Rush (28)|
|Home stadium||Millennium Stadium ,
|Highest FIFA ranking||27 (August 1993)|
|Lowest FIFA ranking||117 (August 2011)|
|Elo ranking||63 |
|Highest Elo ranking||3 (1876–1885)|
|Lowest Elo ranking||88 (25 May 2011)|
| Scotland 4–0 Wales
(Glasgow; 26 March 1876)
| Wales 11–0 Ireland
(Wrexham; 3 March 1888)
| Scotland 9–0 Wales
(Glasgow; 23 March 1878)
|Appearances||1 (First in 1958)|
|Best result||Quarter-finals, 1958|
The Wales national football team represents Wales in international football. It is controlled by the Football Association of Wales (FAW), the governing body for football in Wales and the third-oldest national football association in the world. The team have only qualified for a major international tournament once in their history, when Wales qualified for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. However, Wales did progress through UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying to the quarter-final, which was played on a home and away leg basis.
Although part of the United Kingdom, Wales has always had a representative side that plays in all the major professional tournaments, though not in the Olympic Games, as the IOC has always recognised United Kingdom representative sides.
Although the Scots won the first fixture 4–0, a return match was planned in Wales the following year, and so it was that the first international football match on Welsh soil took place at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham on 5 March 1877. Scotland took the spoils winning 2–0.
The associations of the four Home Nations met in Manchester on 6 December 1882 to set down a set of worldwide rules. This meeting saw the establishment of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to approve changes to the rules, a task the four associations still perform to this day.
The 1883–84 season saw the formation of the British Home Championship, a tournament which was played annually between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, until 1983–84. Wales were champions on 12 occasions, winning outright seven times whilst sharing the title five times.
The FAW became members of FIFA, world football's governing body, in 1906, but the relationship between FIFA and the British associations was fraught and the British nations withdrew from FIFA in 1928 in a dispute over payments to amateur players. As a result, Wales did not enter the first three World Cups.
In 1932 Wales played host to the Republic of Ireland, the first time they played against a side from outside the four home nations. A year later, Wales played a match outside the United Kingdom for the first time when they travelled to Paris to take on France in a match which was drawn 1–1.
After World War II Wales, along with the other four home nations, rejoined FIFA in 1946 and took part in the qualifying rounds for the 1950 World Cup, the 1949–50 Home Championships being designated as a qualifying group. The top two teams were to qualify for the finals in Brazil, but Wales finished bottom of the group.
Wales made its only World Cup finals tournament appearance in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden. However, their path to qualification was unusual. Having finished second to Czechoslovakia in qualifying Group 4 the golden generation of Welsh football managed by Jimmy Murphy seemed to have missed out on qualification but the politics of the Middle East subsequently intervened.
In the Asian/African qualifying zone Egypt and Sudan had refused to play against Israel whilst Indonesia had insisted on meeting Israel on neutral ground. As a result FIFA proclaimed Israel winners of their respective group. However, FIFA did not want a team to qualify for the World Cup finals without actually playing a match and so lots were drawn of all the second placed teams in UEFA. Belgium were drawn out first but they refused to participate and so then Wales was drawn out and awarded a two-legged play-off match against Israel with a place in Sweden for the winners.
The strong Welsh squad made their mark in Sweden, drawing all the matches in their group against Hungary, Mexico and Sweden before defeating Hungary in a play off match to reach the quarter-finals against Brazil. However, Wales' chances of victory against Brazil were hampered by an injury to John Charles that ruled him out of the match. Wales lost 1–0 with 17-year-old Pelé scoring his first international goal. The goal made Pelé the youngest ever World Cup goalscorer and Brazil went on to win the tournament.
Wales' remarkable campaign in Sweden was the subject of the best-selling book When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup (by Mario Risoli, St David's Press) which was published on the 40th anniversary of the World Cup and was also the inspiration for a Bafta Cymru-nominated documentary.
Wales has never qualified for the finals tournament of the European Championships since its inception in 1960. However, in 1976 the team managed by Mike Smith reached the last eight of the competition, having finished top of qualifying group 2 ahead of Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg. Prior to 1980 only four countries qualified for the finals tournament and Wales were drawn to play against the winners of group 3 Yugoslavia on a home and away basis match. Wales lost the first leg 2–0 in Zagreb and were knocked out of the competition having only managed a 1–1 draw in a bad-tempered return leg at Ninian Park, Cardiff which was marred by crowd trouble. This led to Wales initially being banned from the 1980 tournament, subsequently reduced on appeal to a ban on qualifying games being played within 100 miles of Cardiff for four years.
The following year Wales defeated England on English soil for the first time in 42 years and secured their only victory to date at Wembley thanks to a Leighton James penalty. Another notable achievement came in the 1980 British Home Championship, as Wales comprehensively defeated England at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Goals from Mickey Thomas, Ian Walsh, Leighton James and an own goal by Phil Thompson saw Wales beat England 4–1 just four days after England had beaten the then-world champions, Argentina.
In the 1982 World Cup qualifiers the Wales team managed by Mike England came extremely close to qualification, a 3–0 defeat against the USSR in their final game meant they missed out on goal difference, but the real damage had been done by their failure to beat Iceland in their last home game, the match eventually finishing 2–2 after several hold-ups due to floodlight failures.
Mark Hughes marked his debut for Wales by scoring the only goal of the game as England were defeated once again in 1984. The following season, Hughes was again on target, scoring a wonder goal as Wales thrashed Spain 3–0 at The Racecourse during qualification for the 1986 World Cup. However, despite beating Scotland 1–0 at Hampden Park, it was again Iceland that wrecked Welsh hopes by beating Wales 1–0 in Reykjavik and for the second World Cup in a row Wales missed out on goal difference. Wales had to win their last match at home to Scotland to be guaranteed at least a play-off, but were held to a 1–1 draw in a match marred by the death of Scotland manager Jock Stein who collapsed from a heart attack at the end of the game.
Under Terry Yorath Wales attained their highest ever FIFA ranking of 27th in August 1993.
Wales came close, once again, to qualifying for a major championship when they came within a whisker of reaching the 1994 World Cup. Needing to win the final game of the group at home to Romania, Paul Bodin missed a penalty when the scores were level 1–1; Romania went on to win 2–1.
Following the failure to qualify Yorath's contract as manager of the national side was not renewed by the FAW and John Toshack, then manager of Real Sociedad, was appointed as a part-time manager. However, Toshack resigned after just one game – a 3–1 defeat to Norway – citing problems with the FAW as his reason for leaving, although he was sure to have been shocked at being booed off the pitch at Ninian Park by the Welsh fans still reeling from the dismissal of Yorath. Mike Smith took the Wales manager role for the second time at the start of the Euro 96 qualifiers but Wales slipped to embarrassing defeats against Moldova and Georgia before Bobby Gould was appointed in June 1995.
Gould's time in charge of Wales is seen as a dark period by Welsh football fans. His questionable tactics and public fallings-out with players such as Nathan Blake, Robbie Savage and Mark Hughes, coupled with embarrassing defeats to club side Leyton Orient and a 7–1 thrashing by the Netherlands in 1996 did not make him a popular figure within Wales. Gould finally resigned following a 4–0 defeat to Italy in 1999, and the FAW turned to two legends of the national team, Neville Southall and Mark Hughes to take temporary charge of the game against Denmark four days later, with Hughes later being appointed on a permanent basis.
Under Mark Hughes, Wales came close to qualifying for a place at UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal, being narrowly defeated by Russia in the play-offs. The defeat, however, was not without its controversy as Russian midfield player, Yegor Titov, tested positive for the use of a banned substance after the first qualifying leg, a scoreless draw in Moscow. However, the sport's governing body decided to take no action against the Football Union of Russia (Российский Футбольный Союз) other than instructing them not to play Titov again, and the Russian team went on to beat Wales in Cardiff 1–0 to qualify for UEFA Euro 2004.
Following a disappointing start to 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group 6, Hughes left his role with the national team to take over as manager of English Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers. On 12 November 2004, John Toshack was appointed manager for the second time.
In UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying, Wales were drawn in Group D alongside Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and San Marino. The team's performance was disappointing, finishing fifth in the group with expected defeat at home to Germany yet an unexpected draw away, a loss away and a goalless draw at home to the Czech Republic, a loss away and 2–2 draw at home to the Republic of Ireland, a 3–0 home win and uninspiring 2–1 away win against minnows San Marino, a 3–1 home win and 3–1 away defeat against Cyprus, and a spectacularly mixed performance against Slovakia, losing 5–1 at home and winning 5–2 away. However, better performances towards the end of the competition by a team containing, of necessity because of injuries and suspensions of senior players, no fewer than five players who were eligible for selection for the Under-21 squad was viewed as a hopeful sign of future progress for the team.
In 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group 4, Wales made a promising start, winning 1–0 and 2–0 against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, respectively. However, they lost their next game against Russia in Moscow, 2–1, after Joe Ledley had briefly drawn them level. The qualifying campaign showed signs of promise when the team managed to prevent Germany from scoring for 74 minutes of their match in Mönchengladbach, but the match eventually finished 1–0 to Germany. Two 2–0 home defeats by Finland and Germany in Spring 2009 effectively put paid to Wales' hopes of qualification.
Wales were drawn in UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying Group G with Montenegro, Bulgaria, Switzerland and close rivals England. Wales lost 1–0 away to Montenegro in their opening game and, on 9 September 2010, John Toshack stood down as manager after being disappointed at previous results in 2010 against Croatia and the opening UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier.
The Wales Under-21 coach Brian Flynn took over from Toshack as caretaker manager with a view to a possible permanent appointment but a 1–0 home defeat to Bulgaria and 4–1 away loss to Switzerland meant that the FAW passed over Flynn.
Gary Speed was appointed as permanent manager on 14 December 2010. Speed's first game as Wales manager was 8 February 2011 in the inaugural Nations Cup, which the Republic of Ireland won 3–0. Speed's first competitive match was the Euro 2012 qualifier at home to England 26 March 2011 and Speed appointed twenty-year-old Aaron Ramsey captain, making Ramsey the youngest ever Wales captain. Wales lost to England 2–0 and in August 2011 Wales attained their lowest ever FIFA world ranking of 117th. This was followed by a 2–1 home win against Montenegro, a 1–0 away loss to England, a 2–0 home win against Switzerland and a 1–0 away win against Bulgaria. Consequently in October 2011, Wales had rapidly risen to 45th in the FIFA rankings. A 4–1 home win in a friendly match versus Norway on 12 November 2011 proved to be Speed's last match in charge of Wales. The match was a culmination of Speed's efforts which led Wales to receive the unofficial award for biggest mover of 2011 in the FIFA rankings. His tenure as manager ended in tragic circumstances two weeks later when he was found dead at his home on 27 November, having apparently committed suicide.
Chris Coleman was appointed Wales team manager on 19 January 2012. For 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification, Wales were placed in the sixth pot and drawn in Group A with Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland and Macedonia. They lost their first game 2-0, against Belgium. Their second game, against Serbia, was even worse - finishing 6-1 - Wales's worst defeat since the 7-1 reversal to Holland in 1996. In October 2012 Ashley Williams was appointed captain of Wales by Coleman, replacing Aaron Ramsey. Wales won at home against Scotland 2-1, lost away to Croatia 2-0, and won away against Scotland 2-1 but a 2-1 loss at home to Croatia ended Wales hopes of qualifying.
Due to London's successful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, a Great Britain team would qualify as of right of being the host nation. However, the FAW stressed it was strongly against the proposal. Despite this, Welsh players Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale expressed their interest in representing the Great Britain Olympic football team. Bale was ultimately omitted due to injury, but Ramsey was joined by four other Welshmen in Stuart Pearce's 18-man squad; Swansea City's Joe Allen and Neil Taylor, as well as Manchester United's Ryan Giggs and Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, who were included as over-age players.
During the period 2000–2010, Wales played most of their home matches at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The stadium was built in 1999 on the site of the old National Stadium, known as Cardiff Arms Park, as the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) had been chosen to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Prior to 1989, Wales played their home games at the grounds of Cardiff City F.C., Swansea City A.F.C. and Wrexham F.C., but then came to an agreement with the WRU to use Cardiff Arms Park and, subsequently, the Millennium Stadium.
Wales' first football match at the Millennium Stadium was against Finland on 29 March 2000. The Finns won the match 2–1, with Jari Litmanen becoming the first player to score a goal at the stadium. Ryan Giggs scored Wales' goal in the match, becoming the first Welshman to score at the stadium.
In recent seasons, most home friendlies have been played at Cardiff City Stadium, the Liberty Stadium and the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. However, qualifying matches continued to be played at the 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium, which was typically only around 20–40% full, leading to calls from fans and players alike for international matches to be held at these smaller stadiums with capacities of 15,500–27,000. Thus, the FAW finally decided that for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, Wales would play all of their home ties at either the Cardiff City Stadium or the Liberty Stadium, with the exception of the home tie against England, which was played at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales named the following squad for the 2014 World Cup qualifying matches against Scotland on 22 March 2013 and Croatia on 26 March 2013. Jermaine Easter, Lewin Nyatanga and Owain Tudor Jones were subsequently added to the squad.
As of 27 Mar 2013, (players still active in bold):
|#||Name||First Cap-Latest Cap||Caps||Goals|
Note: players still available for international selection in bold:
As of 27 Mar 2013 (players still active in bold):
Prior to 1954 the Welsh team was chosen by a panel of selectors with the team captain fulfilling the role of coach.
|Ronnie Burgess||1965 (caretaker manager for one match due to unavailability of Dave Bowen)|
|David Williams||1988 (caretaker manager for one match)|
|Brian Flynn||2010 (caretaker manager for 2 matches)|
|Assistant Manager||Kit Symons|
|Coaches||Osian Roberts, Ryland Morgans and John Hartson|
|Goalkeeping Coach||Martyn Margetson|
|Team Doctors||Dr. Mark Ridgewell and Dr. Mark Davies|
|Physiotherapists||Mel Pejic, Sean Connelly and Dyfri Owen|
|Opposition Analyst||Martin Hodge|
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