A land of never-ending sunshine, olive groves, amber nectar and all the kebabs you can eat.
The place where Aphrodite, goddess of love and dazzling beauty, emerges from the foam of the sea enchanting anyone who sees her.
OMG, we finally prosper from a Gavin Maguire moment. A wheel has turned full circle and now we are getting all the breaks.
Seven Aberteifi (Cardigan) lads hit Haifa for the France 2016 qualifier. Here, in a guest post by Alan Lewis – who is on Twitter at @ABERTEIFI_ – is a chronicle of one of the most significant wins Wales have ever recorded.
If we can’t qualify when the gates gape as wide as Euro2016’s do, it isn’t going to happen.
Twenty-three teams go through and, after sifting out the no-hopers, that means about 36 countries are vying for those slots.
Is it crisis over now? And finally there’s been an outbreak of trust and hugs and kisses all round? Did the FA say to Chris Coleman in the communal showers after: “We were always going to keep you, Cookie – this was a test.”
I hope so. And I think it’s the least he deserves. We can all move on then. To new Welsh football fiascos and debacles. Or maybe with the world’s most expensive footballer in our ranks and Britain’s best player (Ramsey) we can finally achieve something concrete.
A million wows. Brain-boggling Bale blasts a brilliant goal to salvage Wales – and a nation’s sanity – from the shredder.
For me, the best Welsh goal this millennium. Also, let’s just over-egg the pudding – one of the most important goals in our history.
Coming away from the spineless, September stinkathon in Serbia it seemed we’d taken a blow so painful that I feared recovery would be impossible.
It really seemed that the side didn’t give a monkey’s. Pitiful performances – well we’ve seen plenty of them, take your pic, there’s dozens. But last month was the worst of the lot.
Novi Sad was crisis-bad. Maybe the worst defeat in my lifetime and it seemed to spark knives out for Coleman and more turmoil than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Even worse was that the national side seemed to be again becoming a favoured topic of national ridicule.
A story appeared suggesting Coleman, to appease the FAW, would have to win against Scotland and Croatia and I thought: ‘Hang on, while you’re at it why not ask him to climb Everest too and then ski down stark bollock naked?’
So, full marks then to all the players. Novi Sad was all their fault, I figured. So all credit for this win must go them – and in winning they presumably have settled the insidious Coleman question for the moment.
Matches at the CCS are rarely without a pointedly chosen pre-match record . This time it was Secret Affair’s Time for Action. Mod anthem message to gee up the troops – an unusual choice.
Morison’s miss in the first half, followed by an immediate Scottish goal looked like it was going to sum up Welsh football history in 30 seconds. So close to glory, then sucker-punch humiliation just to remind you that the Welsh always lose. It’s in our genes.
At half-time, a mutual wail of woe with Iwan from Cardigan about strikers and the ‘How on earth aren’t we winning? chat.
And then a second-half swelling tide of Bale, Bale and more Bale. He’s absolutely fucking brilliant isn’t he, in a way I don’t think I’ve seen in any player play, bar Pavel Nedved at the Euros in 2004. If he raced a stag, you’d fancy his chances and then push the poor creature over.
Looked a penalty to me – in fact we should have had two before I reckoned, for fouls on Ramsey and Davies.
And then the goal that many of us felt was our due – like we’d earned it because we were driven mad in Novi Sad to the point where you question why you ever bothered starting to watch Wales play away and all those people who roll their eyes when you explained might have a point. But we were owed something big, something beautiful, something you would remember for the rest of your life. And about bloody time, we got it.
We got all that and more and the relief was immense. It resonates so much especially with the classic Wales v Scotland heartbreaks over the years. And fair dos to the Scot who admitted he clipped Bale therefore spiking the guns of the scurvy Scots who accused our man of diving.
Great stuff and I bet Steve Morison must have been relieved his miss was an irrelevance. If you see a better goal at the CCS in the next 50 years then maybe it will have been scored by Messi beating seven players in the ninth minute of added time.
They all played, they all bust a gut, there are no complaints from me. The pain has been purged.
‘Coleman out’ codswallop
No prizes for guessing where I stand. It was brave to select Price, Davies and Ledley and all performed well. I can’t remember Price ever being less than excellent and if he was several inches taller he would surely be first-choice somewhere.
Quite brave to replace Ramsey as skipper too – though after Novi Sad where he appeared rudderless, a very sensible and obvious decision.
Let’s hope that whatever happens on Tuesday, the unsettling cloud over Coleman – a guy who has only three competitive games so far and in two of which (Belgium, Scotland) his side have played well, has been dispelled.
Giggs v Bale
The debate is edging towards Bale. Both men were men of the match in about half the first 25-30 games they played for Wales. Bale’s better goalscoring record and crossing ability edge it for me.
Play another seven or eight years and he’ll probably beat John Charles as the best Welsh player ever.
This campaign will always be overshadowed by Gary Speed – can’t the anti-Coleman campaigners see the poisoned chalice he has accepted and give him credit for trying to turn it around?
So, it was heartwarming earlier in the week to hear Roger Speed urge people to get behind the side and Coleman in particular. He nailed his colours to the mast unequivocably and rather bravely, given the mutterings of the last month.
Simple common sense from a bereaved father bewildered by what he saw.
So, quite bizarrely, the spirit of Gary Speed is still with this team in the form of his father – a benevolent grandfather figure to the national side.
It occurs to me that Roger Speed, with a humane, compassionate sentence or two of support for Coleman, is a man wise beyond words.
Penalty pic courtesy of Jack Fleckney