Posts Tagged ‘Football’

What an amazing match! We beat Belgium 3-1, and now we are in the semi-finals where we will take on Portugal.

It is like being in a dream. This is the furthest Wales have got in an international football competition. It is the first time we have been in one since the 1958 World Cup, where Brazil knocked us out in the Quarter Finals.

This time we have gone one step further, and Portugal are eminently beatable.

Come on Wales!!!! Dere ‘mlaen Cymru!!!! #togetherstronger

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We may have voted to leave the EU, a disappointment from which it will take me a long time to recover, but Wales are still in the 2016 Euros. On Saturday evening we beat Northern Ireland 1-0 to advance to the Quarter Finals. The dream is still alive, and Wales, who have never been in the Euros before, are now in the last eight. In the Quarter Finals we will meet Belgium, who were in the same qualifying group as us. We beat them in our home game, and held them to a draw in the away game. So, we should not be afraid of them.


Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the Quarter Finals. We play Belgium in Lille on Friday at 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)

Belgium advanced to the Quarter Finals with an emphatic 4-0 win over Hungary, and certainly they looked very good. The Wales win over Northern Ireland was much more scrappy, but although Northern Ireland are not the most attacking of teams they are also a very difficult team to break down, as we discovered.

Wales are already in dreamland, but it is far from inconceivable that we can beat Belgium. If we do, we would play either Portugal or Poland in the semi-finals. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time. We first need to beat Belgium, and we showed in qualifying for the Euros that we can do that.

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After the heartbreak of the Brexit vote yesterday, at least I can look forward to some exciting sport today. It is not often that, with a big rugby match on the same day as a football match, that I would choose to blog more about the football, but today is  not an ordinary day. Later today, at 17:00 BST (16:00 GMT), Wales take on Northern Ireland in the round  of 16 of the 2016 Euros. As I have mentioned in previous blogposts, Wales have never been in the Euros before, so getting to the Quarter Finals would be a wonderful achievement.

Before then, in rugby Wales take on New Zealand in the final test of their three test tour. I really don’t have too much to say about that match; we are expected to lose and the main aim will be to stay within 15-20 points of New Zealand. Such is the gulf between the standard of the two teams. If we can give New Zealand a good match, we can come home thinking the tour has been a qualified success.

More interestingly, at 11am BST Australia v England kicks off in the third test of England’s tour down under. England are 2-0 up in the series, and are going for a white wash. It would be a remarkable achievement should they do it. Not only will they humiliate Australia, but it will really set down a marker that England are on their way back to being as good as anyone else in world rugby, a position they have not enjoyed since 2003. I am going to be watching that match with more interest than the NZ v Wales match earlier.

But, the real highlight for most Welsh sporting fans today is our 2016 Euros match against Northern Ireland. After our incredible display against Russia, the Welsh team must be full of confidence. We tore Russia apart in a 3-0 victory, not only ensuring our advancement to the knock-out rounds, but also we finished top of Group B after England failed to beat Slovakia.


Wales take on Northern Ireland later today in the 2016 Euros. Kick off is at 17:00 BST (16:00 GMT). Neither team has been this far in the Euros before, for Wales it is our first time ever in the Euros.

Certainly expectation is higher of our beating Northern Ireland in the football than it is of beating New Zealand in the rugby. The Welsh football team are playing full of confidence, and if we can play anything like as well as we did against Russia I cannot see us not advancing to the Quarter Finals. Fingers crossed.

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After the disappointment of losing to England 2-1 last Thursday (16 June), Wales bounced back last night to defeat Russia 3-0 and finish top of Group B in the 2016 Euros. We were helped in finishing top by England having a 0-0 draw with Slovakia in their final game. What a remarkable achievement for Wales; it is our first time in a major championship since 1958 and we finish above our noisy neighbour.

Wales were simply majestic last night, we thoroughly deserved to win and it could have been by 5 or 6 and not just 3. We attacked from the start, and were 1-0 up by 11 minutes thanks to a fantastic goal by Aaron Ramsey. By 20 minutes it was 2-0, with Neil Taylor scoring his first goal since 2010 in any match!

It was 2-0 at half-time, but Wales continued to attack in the 2nd  half. It was possibly inevitable that our talisman, Gareth Bale, would make it 3-0 with a beautifully taken goal in the 68th minute. Although Russia had a few chances, they really didn’t trouble the Welsh defence too much. I would imagine their coach and team will be sent to a Gulag camp by Vladimir Putin.

By winning our group, Wales now have a much easier path to the Quarter Finals. On Saturday (25 June) we will play the 3rd place team in either group A,C or D. England, by finishing 2nd,  will meet the runner-up of Group F.

I could not be more proud of my little country. Well done Wales, let’s now continue to play attacking football, win on Saturday and reach the quarter finals.

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Even if the state of Welsh regional rugby is not good, the same cannot be said of Welsh football. Swansea City FC are doing very well in the English Premiership, lying mid-table and with several big wins this season. They have also just got through to the final of the League Cup, beating Chelsea 2-0 on aggregate last night. And Cardiff City FC are flying high in the Championship, the league below the Premiership.

The Cardiff City football club club badge.

The Cardiff City football club club badge.

Cardiff top the Championship table

The Championship table as it stood on Saturday (19th January 2013). Cardiff City are 10 points clear at the top of the Championship table with 28 of the 46 games played.

With 28 games played of the 46 in the season, Cardiff City have 60 points, 10 points clear of their nearest rivals. Of course, as anyone who has been following Cardiff City will know, they have failed to gain promotion to the Premiership several times in the last few seasons. Having grown up in Pembrokeshire I don’t have the same tribal loyalty towards Cardiff City that its die-hard supporters have. So most of them would not join me in saying how wonderful it would be to see both Cardiff and Swansea playing in the Premiership. But surely that can only be good for Welsh football and for Wales as a country.

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On April the 15th 1989, Liverpool football club were due to play Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. As is normal with semi-finals, the game was to be held at a neutral ground. The Hillsborough stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday was chosen. The game never took place. Before the game, a tragedy unfolded.

96 Liverpool football fans died at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, England. It remains the worst stadium disaster in British history, and one of the worst football disasters in the World.

A few days after the disaster, Britain’s best selling newspaper “The Sun” ran a cover story with the headline “The Truth”, The story said that Liverpool fans were responsible for the disaster, had been drunk and disorderly, stole from dead victims and even urinated on them.

The Sun "The Truth"

The front page of The Sun newspaper from April 1989, showing the article condemning Liverpool fans for their part in and behaviour during the Hillsborough tragedy. We now know the claims were untrue.

This week, previously secret documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster were released. They reveal an appalling cover up by the Police, doctors and, it would see, anyone else who could be held responsible for this appalling disaster. They also reveal that the Sun’s story was fabricated, in an apparently concerted attempt by various groups to shift blame for the disaster onto the Liverpool football fans. Only now, 23 years later, is the truth coming out that the Liverpool fans were, in fact, innocent victims of a series of errors and bad decisions by Sheffield City authorities, the Police and emergency officials.

I cannot begin to imagine how painful it must be to lose a loved one in such a tragedy. But, it must be twice as hard to have the blame for such a disaster put upon the very people who were innocent victims of it. What an appalling indictment of the cowardice of the authorities to not only try to avoid blame and criticism for their ineptidues, but to deliberately lie to shift the blame onto others.

Wreaths at Anfield in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster

Wreaths at Anfield in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster

Although the Prime Minister and a few others have apologised, I sincerely hope that those who lied during the offical Taylor enquiry will now face criminal prosecution for perjury and/or perverting the course of justice. Nothing can bring the loved ones who lost their lives back, but at least the families of those who died can gain some comfort from seeing the people who tried to cover up the reasons for this tragedy being prosecuted. This will be some level of justice.

Hillsborough disaster

A fan sits in the carnage left after the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.

Here is a video of a newsflash from the day of the disaster

Britain is very quick to condemn injustice and corruption in other countries, and yet here is clear evidence that such practices occur in the Disunited Kingdom too. The hypocrisy. The shame.

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Tomorrow (Saturday), my team Chelsea are playing in the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich (Bayern Munchen). The annual Champions League final is the biggest game in football next to the World Cup Final. For the team who wins, it represents a bonus of some £50 million in increased revenue.

For English teams, if they finish in the top 4 of the domestic English Premiership, they qualify for the following season’s Champions League, a huge fillip to their revenues. This season (20011-12), Chelsea have failed to finish in the top 4, for the first time in quite a few years. However, should they win the final tomorrow, they will be allowed to defend their title next season, meaning Tottenham Hotspur, who finished 4th in the Premiership, will not qualify. Needles to say, Spurs fans are willing Bayern Munich to beat Chelsea.

The final standings in the English Premiership (2011-12 season)

Why do I, someone who grew up in Pembrokeshire, support an English club based in London? It’s all because Chelsea happened to win the 1970 FA Cup final, which was the first one I remember.

Chelsea Football Club

Within a few months of this win, my parents had bought me a Chelsea football kit, which I used to wear when I played my “fantasy” games outside in the back garden. My heroes of the 1970s team were Peter Bonetti, the Chelsea goalkeeper, and Peter Osgood, the centre forward. This might indicate my schizophrenia over my preferred footballing position, sometimes I wanted to be a goalkeeper and sometimes I wanted to be the one scoring the goals!

Chelsea didn’t enjoy a huge amount of success between 1970 and 2003, but that all changed when the club was bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abromovich. In addition to spending hundreds of millions of pounds on new players, he brought in José Mourinho, the manager who had taken Porto to the Champions League title in 2004. Under Mourinho, Chelsea enjoyed their most successful period in their history, winning the Premiership back-to-back in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, the FA Cup in 2007 and the League Cup in 2005 and 2007. Mourinho left under suspicious circumstances in September 2007, and since then Chelsea have not kept a manager for more than 1 season. This season started with André Villas-Boas as the new coach, but he was sacked in March of this year, to be replaced by the “interim” coach Roberto Di Matteo. The switch of manager seems to have turned Chelsea’s season around, they went on to win this season’s FA Cup, beating Liverpool in the final, and have made their way to the final of the Champions League, the biggest prize in club football.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who bought Chelsea F.C. in June 2003

This is the second time Chelsea have reached the final, they lost to Manchester United 6-5 on penalties in 2008. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can win it this time around, I will be glued to the TV tomorrow evening, hoping all the money Abramovich has spent in the last 10 years can finally see Chelsea claim the ultimate prize.

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On Tuesday evening (24th of January), Cardiff City football club won their semi-final of the League Cup (currently called the Carling Cup), beating Crystal Palace in a penalty shoot-out, after drawing 1-1 on aggregate after extra time. This puts them through to the final, where they will meet Liverpool, who beat Manchester City last night.

Amazingly, this will be Cardiff City’s fourth trip to Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, in 4 years. In 2008 they reached the final of the FA Cup, but were beaten by Portsmouth 1-0 (they beat Barnsley in the semi final which was also played there). In the 2009/10 season they reached the Football League Championship play-off final to gain the 3rd place promotion to the Premier League, but were beaten by Blackpool 3-2.

I only live about 2km from the new Cardiff City Stadium, and when Crystal Palace missed their penalty on Tuesday evening, I could hear the roar from the crowd. I am pleased for Cardiff City, as they have had a heartbreaking string of near misses over the last several seasons. In the 2008/09 season, they failed to make the play-offs for promotion to the Premier League by the narrowest of margins, only being placed below Preston on goals scored during the season, as even their goal difference was the same.

In the 2009/10 season, as mentioned above, their lost in the play-off final at Wembley to Blackpool, and in the 2010/11 season (last season), they again made the play-offs, but lost to Reading on aggregate in the 1st round of the play-offs.

They have also had to see their fiercest rivals, Swansea City, gain promotion to the Premier League last season. Although I grew up supporting Chelsea, as I now live in Cardiff I also support my local club, and my teenage son has a season ticket so goes to most Cardiff City home games.

The final of the League Cup is on the 26th of February, and Liverpool will be an interesting opposition. Until 2009, Liverpool were the most successful English football club in history, having won the old first division a record 18 times. This record was equalled and then surpassed by Manchester United in the 2008/09 and 2010/11 seasons. Liverpool have still won the European Cup more times than any other English (or British) football club, 5 times. Amazingly, they have not been to Wembley to play a final since 1996.

Given Cardiff City’s recent years of close misses, I am hopefully they can upset the expectations and beat Liverpool in a month’s time, and win their first major trophy since they won the FA Cup in 1927. We shall see.

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