Nil thrills: Wales 0 Israel 0

 The first rule of Welsh qualification is – never talk about Welsh qualification.

But of course we do. Can’t help it. Even despite self-imposed mental bans that stretch back, in my case, more than 20 years.

That’ll teach us won’t it? Nil-bloody-nil. Wind down after the game and then some bugger – wish he hadn’t told me – pipes up an hour after the match had finished: “Hey, if Belgium don’t win, we’re through.”

And all those qualification hopes you’ve just buried until next month surge back. Have I got the energy for this? Didn’t I put enough heart and soul into the match?

So, because you’ve been waiting entire life for this JFK moment, you have to watch football from Nicosia in a pub. Belgium v Cyprus. Because if you don’t you’ll miss that moment you’ve waited your entire life for.

Wales will have qualified and you won’t even  know  about it. Jesus Allah.

All that amid the startling realisation that it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The way you’d pictured it in your daydreams, night dreams and all those other times you weren’t having daydreams or night dreams.

 You were supposed to have this ‘qualification moment’ with your pals laughing and cackling like there’s no tomorrow and the rest of your life will be happy beyond belief. Shaking each other by the shoulders, burying your face in their neck screaming so much you leave snot on their shoulders- it doesn’t matter they’ve done the same to you. Preferred location would be a terrace in Cardiff or some funny place abroad, like Osijek or Baku.

Instead we were six minutes away from that split second, scoffing crisps in Canton.The moment the world stood still would have been 9.54pm and I would have been in the Corporation in Cowbridge Road East.

As someone said: “That would be the typical Welsh way for it to happen.”

We’re still waiting.

Given the game, unlike no other Wales match, has been the focus of enormous media attention and thousands of words have been expounded on it, it seems appropriate to gloss over most of it.

Just to say: I left feeling we should have done more to win. Stop chucking high balls in. Bring Simon Church on earlier and try to play him in, or throw David Cotterill on to get better-quality crosses into the penalty box. Hal Robson-Kanu and Jazz Richards might struggle to start against Bosnia – I thought they were the weakest links – but as Coleman tends to reward a decent result – and on reflection this one doesn’t look too bad – with a continuation of personnel, perhaps both will stay in the side.

As Wales 0-0s go, it was one of the better ones and sparked memories, long since forgotten and most of them unpleasant, of past goalless draws we have been shamed by.

So let’s be grateful,if that’s the right word, for what happened against Israel. In the wise words of Llantwit Major football gag merchant ‘Mirko Bolesan’.

Anyway, here’s six Wales 0-0s that were considerably worse than yesterday – one of them was even a good game. In descending order of true horror – the truest sort of horror that only a Wales game can produce, and proof nil-nil makes you ill.

Russia v Wales 2003

This was actually a riveting match – the horror only came a few days later.

We had to barge coppers out of the way to get on to the terrace, dodge vodka-crazed fascist hooligans in Red Square and go through an airport scanner at the turnstile – cops were checking we hadn’t tried to sneak a gun in. Luckily I’d left mine in the hotel.

But it was a great trip, and not even spoiled by the football. Ordinary Russians were lovely.

Wales v Turkey 1996

The start of Bobby Gould’s headlong descent into deserved ignominy was sparked by the previous match – a 7-1 mullering at the hands, feet and boomps-a-daisy of Holland who were incredible, and eased off the gas when it looked like they were going to get 15.

In this match, a month later, it was clear players were still shellshocked by the previous game and nobody wanted the ball. We were there for the taking but luckily Turkey didn’t fancy it either. The worst game of anything played at our national stadium – oh no, hang on, that’s No 6.IMG_2988

Poland v Wales 2000

This was actually a decent result and 250 of us were there to see it. I say ‘see it’ but that would be misleading. We were certainly in the stadium but we could barely see a thing due to the huge mesh fence that was in front of us – did the ground authorities know what was coming and decide we would be better off not getting a good view of it?

Get mum’s colander out of the cupboard, put it over your face and wander round a bit, watching the world. That’s what it was like.

We did see Robbie Savage though. He did his after-match interview on the pitch and came over to the fans and threw all of his kit, except his underpants, into the crowd.

15 years later, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can honestly say this was Robbie’s greatest contribution to Welsh football.

Wales v Republic of Ireland 2013

Absolute, irrefutable proof that playing our peat-eating brothers across Cardigan Bay is a complete waste of time. I remember none of it except that the Irish – even the Irish, a nation who would travel in their thousands to watch one of their own cats fight a foreign cat – didn’t bother to turn up in their usual scary horde. They knew. Too many games against the Republic in the last 30 years have been played. Luckily I’ve missed most of them. Lovely people but we don’t need to play friendlies against them.

Northern Ireland v Wales 2007

The fresh hell of fresh hells. Best not to be too rude about the locals but the closest I’ve ever been to being beaten up at a Wales game.north

A measure of how bad this match was came when someone who’d seen the fans’ game in which we’d drawn 1-1 with the local supporters that afternoon and the main match that followed it in the evening said that our fans’ game was far superior.

I’ll just let that sink in: a match featuring several pot-bellied 40somethings provided better entertainment.

Wales v Armenia 2001

The all-time worst international I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen Greece play several times. A football-free football match in front of 10,000 fans who still deserve a refund.

I watched all ten 2002 qualifiers and this was the final kick in the teeth from an underachieving side. Maybe they had to go through this to get to the good stuff which emerged in the Euro2004 campaign.

Giggs took two or three corners, all of which hit the shortarse Armenian on the near post. Eight games into a campaign and we still couldn’t take a bastard corner.I had a meltdown. It was interesting that from this point on Mark Pembridge took over that responsibility.

The football made me ill and I felt bad for two days after. I still want my money back.

Bosnia here we come

Anyway, it’s been pointed out that we have four more bites at the cherry of qualification. Two games next month and maybe two play-offs.

So, as they say, ‘we go again’ and again. And then maybe we go again and again.

As a result next month in Zenica I am hoping for a 0-0. Because then we won’t have to ‘go again’ and then maybe again and again.

But mainly, I’m getting exhausted – I  just wish it would be all over soon.

Cadwch y ffyddbale

13 thoughts on “Nil thrills: Wales 0 Israel 0

  1. Damn right too much ‘all but qualified’ talk for me lately. ‘It will be OK, we’ve got Andorra still to play, a team we struggled to beat in the first game.
    Just a couple of points, that Turkey game was played at the National Stadium before it had even been torn down never mind replaced by the Millennium Stadium and the year was 1996.
    Also the nil nil in Poland was seen as a good result at the time. They were top of the group and we’d just lost to Norway at home. Didn’t we draw nearly every game other than Norway from that point in in the group?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ta, I tickled the Turkey one. I view the arms park – as I still think of it – and MS as same place, different furniture.

    We were quite chuffed in Poland, but it would have been nice to know what was going on, given that we were there! The experience was dismal. Six draws (without checking) beat Belarus in the last game for only victory and had we hung on to all our 1-0 leads we would have qualified for World Cup. Six big ‘ifs’ mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’d have probably won that World Cup too, seeing as France, Italy, Portugal were all knocked out early on and Germany recovered from losing to us and Earnie’s debut international goal to reach the final against Brazil.
      We needed to win that final 2001 qualifier to avoid some sort of 30 year winless record but wasn’t it later reported there was some allegation involving Belarus and match fixing (their end, not ours)? Anyway I still think that 2000/01 campaign gave Mark Hughes’ side the confidence and defensive resilience that led to the (relative) success of 2002.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cor not even I would say that we could have won in 2002 though obviously we were robbed in 1958 and should have been crowned there. Agree about the foundation it set – but I don’t think the 2002 group was a tough one. Tougher in retrospect but at the time, there were harder ones I’m sure. 2002 WC probably was the widest-open ever


    1. I was in Liverpool at the time of the Jamaica game, but afterwards my brother went to see Chris Goldfinger DJ at the Astoria and I think Ricardo Gardner was on the mic for a bit too. Also I think Stonelove played the Star Centre in Splot that night.

      Liked by 1 person

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