Wales were coming off the back of a 0-2 defeat at the hands of France, away from home at Stade de France in Paris in front of over 60,000 fans which made for an intimate and hostile atmosphere, a match described as the EUROS final that never was, a match that showed exactly why Wales’ opponents had qualified for the world cup ahead of them.
Wales’ `bright` future was a big talking point ahead of this football match, with Chris Coleman’s future still hanging in the balance the question on many fans’ lips was `will this be his last game`? The Cardiff City Stadium faithful came out in full force to support their manager in hope that he would continue in his role, a role occupied by a highly valued asset to Welsh football. He spoke nothing of his future in his column in the programme, he praised Panama’s achievement in getting to the world cup’s final stages for the first time in their history and showed his appreciation to the fans. All the supporters can do now is wait and see; will he choose to steer the team through this period of change, or will he abandon ship?
As we focus on the match, it was the first time that the two side (Wales and Panama) have ever met so you can understand why the Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez had named an experienced side that possessed between them, 574 caps! Wales, on the other hand, were looking to experiment; it was evident in Chris Coleman’s team selection. The likes of Ethan Ampadu, the 17-year-old left back from Chelsea and David Brooks, who has been featuring regularly in a strong Sheffield United side took the limelight this time around after filling the shadows of their elders back in Paris. Aaron Ramsey pulled out of the team ahead of the match for an undisclosed reason, filling his boots is Scunthorpe United midfielder, 33-year-old Andrew Crofts.
The Panama supporters came out in full force too, they made a hell of a noise for just over 150! They were in full voice after the match and never sat down during it either! Wales turned out in full force too, there were pushing 10,000 at the match and I couldn’t help but join in the national anthem; it was moving to say the least.
The game started with a lot of clarity, short, neat passing and the formations seemed organised until roughly a quarter of the way through. Players started to get overwhelmed by the occasion and the game began to open up; the Welsh wingbacks started to push forwards leaving open space for the pacey and on-form Luiz Ovalle of Panama. Ethan Ampadu, of Wales, was on fire too, some good interceptions, tackles and long passes made him the stand-out performer of the half however a dodgy tackle was enough earn him a booking. The Welsh dominated the share of the chances, Sam Vokes had a penalty saved by Panamanian keeper Jaime Penedo and Ben Woodburn was denied an early chance by the keeper. Most chances, though, were high and wide which inevitably meant that, clinically, both sides were under-par. On that note, the discipline was of the poorest quality, there were free kicks left, right and centre as the first half drew to a close and moreover, one dodgy tackle left Tom Lawrence in need of some medical attention at half time. The half, in essence, was nip-and-tuck and ill-disciplined which lead to an eventful, dramatic half, a half that ended Wales 0-0 Panama.
Many, many substitutions later and Wales began to apply more pressure after Panama run riot against Wales in the first 10 minutes of the second half, some ten minutes which saw Danny Ward make several mistakes, several mistakes that Wales got away with. As Wales upped the ante, the fans made the atmosphere ever more hostile, inflicting on their opponents what was inflicted upon them in France on Friday. Panama began to crumble under the heat and eventually cracked; it was Tom Lawrence who put Wales in front with a neat shot into the bottom corner, the result ot three corners and two throw-ins, the result Wales were looking for. The discipline was improved too, less fouls, less free-kicks, a free-flowing game. The second half was everything that the first was and some more, goals, better quality chances and some great tackles; in a match where, in my opinion, both teams got what they deserved it ended Wales 1-1 Panama
After the match the Wales manager, Chris Coleman, was quick to heap praise on his players’ performances. He said in his post-match press conference that he had formed a bond and made friendships that will `never be broken` in the Wales camp and tried to steer away from his future and focus on today’s match and how well his men performed but it was going to crop up eventually. When asked if he would be open to a job abroad to fulfil his ambitions of competing in the champions league he said that `I enjoy working abroad` and that going abroad at first `made me better` so it didn’t seem like he would stay on. However he did say that contract talks could start within the next `24, 48 hours` and definitely by the end of the week, and when asked which countries he’d prefer to work and perhaps go into some more detail, he responded with `there are stronger leagues` and `any manager would be attracted to them` which perhaps sent out a message that he hasn’t thought too far into the future; it isn’t all mapped out as of yet which could signify he has unfinished business with Wales. One thing we can all be sure of is that we will know within the next week or two whether he stays, or goes.
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