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The Wales national football team represents Walesmarker in international men's football. It is controlled by the Football Association of Wales, the governing body for football in Wales and the third oldest national football association in the world. The team has not qualified for a major international tournament since 1958, when it qualified for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Wales did however 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 Kingdommarker, Wales has always had its own representative side that plays in all the major professional tournaments, though not in the Olympic Games as the IOCmarker only recognises the United Kingdom.

Wales were placed in Group 4 for qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Germany, Russia, Finland, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein.


The early years

Wales played its first competitive match on 25 March 1876 against Scotland in Glasgowmarker, making it the third oldest international football team in the world.

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, Wrexhammarker on 5 March 1877. Scotland took the spoils winning 2–0.

Wales' first match against England came in 1879 – a 2–1 defeat at the Kennington Ovalmarker, Londonmarker and in 1882 Wales faced Ireland for the first time, winning 7–1 in Wrexham.

The associations of the four Home Nations met in Manchestermarker 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 FIFAmarker, 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 Cup.

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 Kingdommarker for the first time when they travelled to Parismarker to take on Francemarker in a match which was drawn 1–1.


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 Brazilmarker, but Wales finished bottom of the group.

The 1950s were undoubtedly a golden age for Welsh football with stars such as Ivor Allchurch, Alf Sherwood, Jack Kelsey and, of course, John Charles pulling on the famous red shirt and Wales made its only World Cup appearance in 1958. However, their qualification was fortunate to say the least. Having finished second to Czechoslovakia in qualifying Group 4, the Welsh thought their chances of appearing in Sweden were over. But the golden generation of Welsh football had reckoned without the politics of the Middle East.

Egypt and Sudan had refused to play against Israel whilst Indonesia had insisted on meeting Israel on neutral ground. As a result Israel were proclaimed winners of their respective group in the Asian/African zone.

FIFA were understandably reluctant to allow 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 the UEFA qualifying groups. Belgium were drawn out of the hat but they refused and so then Wales was drawn and awarded a two-legged play-off match against Israel with a place in Sweden for the winners.

Having beaten Israel 2–0 at the Ramat Gan Stadiummarker and 2–0 at Ninian Parkmarker, Cardiffmarker, Wales went through to the World Cup Finals for the first and, so far, only time.

The strong Welsh squad made their mark in Sweden, drawing all the matches in their group against Hungary, Mexico, and Sweden before defeating the Hungarians in a play off match to reach the quarter-finals. There the Welsh lost 1–0 to eventual champions Brazil, with 17-year-old Pelé grabbing the only goal of the game for the South American side. However, Wales' chances of victory were hampered by the injury of John Charles.

The 70s and 80s

Wales have never qualified for the final stages of the European Championships since its inception in 1960. However, in 1976, they did reach 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 final stages of the competition, and Wales were drawn to play against the winners of group 3 Yugoslavia, in a two legged match. Wales lost the first leg 2–0 in Zagrebmarker and were knocked out of the competition having only managed a 1–1 draw in the return leg at Ninian Park.

The following year, Wales defeated England on English soil for the first time in 42 years and secured their only victory to date at Wembleymarker thanks to a Leighton James penalty. Another notable achievement came in 1980, as Wales tore England apart in one of the best performances ever witnessed by a Welsh side. Goals from Mickey Thomas, Ian Walsh, Leighton James and an own goal by Phil Thompson saw Wales thrash England 4–1 at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, just four days after England had beaten the then-world champions, Argentina.

In the 1982 World Cup qualifiers, Wales came extremely close to qualification, a 3–0 defeat against the USSR in their final game meant they missed out on goal difference.

Manchester United youngster 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 Mexico 86.

1990s–present day

Wales came close, once again, to qualifying for a major championship when they came within a whisker of reaching the World Cup of 1994. 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, Terry 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 reins for the start of the Euro 96 qualifiers, which saw Wales slip to embarrassing defeats against Moldova and Georgia before Bobby Gould was appointed in June 1995.
Carl Fletcher, 2010 World Cup qualification.

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 Hughes, Wales came close to qualifying for the European Championships in 2004, losing in the play-offs for a place in Portugal against Russia. 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 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 Euro 2004.

Following a disappointing start to the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, Hughes left his role with the national team to take over as manager of Blackburn Roversmarker of the English Premier League. John Toshack was appointed manager for the second time on 12 November 2004.

In the qualification for Euro 2008, 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 has been viewed as a hopeful sign of future progress for the team.

In qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, 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 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 Mönchengladbachmarker, 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, with matches away to Finland, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, and at home to Russia still to come.


Current squad

Wales announced their squad for their friendly against Scotland, on the 14 November 2009 at the Cardiff City Stadiummarker in Cardiff.

Caps, Goals and Ages are accurate as of the squad announcement on the 6th November 2009.

Most-capped players

As of 30 May 2009, the players with the most caps for Wales are:

# Name Career Caps Goals
1 Neville Southall 1982–1998 92 0
2 Gary Speed 1990–2004 85 7
3 Dean Saunders 1986–2001 75 22
4 Peter Nicholas 1979–1991 73 2
= Ian Rush 1980–1996 73 28
6 Mark Hughes 1984–1999 72 16
= Joey Jones 1975–1986 72 1
8 Ivor Allchurch 1950–1966 68 23
9 Brian Flynn 1974–1984 66 7
10 Andy Melville 1989–2004 65 3

50 Cap Club

In addition to the above players, the following have attained 50 caps (players still active in bold):

Top goalscorers

As of 11 Oct 2009 (players still active in bold):

# Name Goals Caps
1 Ian Rush 28 73
2 Trevor Ford 23 38
= Ivor Allchurch 23 68
4 Dean Saunders 22 75
5 Craig Bellamy 17 57
6 Cliff Jones 16 59
= Mark Hughes 16 72
8 John Charles 15 38
9 Robert Earnshaw 14 45
= John Hartson 14 51

Notable former Wales international players

See also :Category:Wales international footballers
Welsh Sports Hall of Famemarker inductees:

Welsh inductees to the English Football Hall of Fame:

Welsh inductees to the Football League 100 Legends:

Welsh Inductee to the PFA Premiership Team of the Year:


See also :Category:Wales national football team managers
Prior to 1954 the Welsh team was chosen by a panel of selectors with the team captain fulfilling the role of coach.
Name Career
Walley Barnes 1954–1955
Jimmy Murphy 1956-1964
Dave Bowen 1964–1974
Ronnie Burgess 1965 (caretaker manager for one game due to unavailability of Dave Bowen)
Mike Smith 1974–1979
Mike England 1979–1987
Terry Yorath 1988–1993
John Toshack 1994
Mike Smith 1994–1995
Bobby Gould 1995–1999
Mark Hughes 1999–2004
John Toshack 2004–present

Other staff

  • Goalkeeping Coach: Paul Jones
  • Team Doctors: Dr. Mark Ridgewell & Dr. Mark Davies
  • Physiotherapists: Mel Pejic & Dyfri Owen
  • Masseur: David Rowe

Competition history

World Cup record

World Cup record
Year Round Position GP W D* L GS GA
1930 Did not enter
1934 Did not enter
1938 Did not enter
1950 Did not qualify
1954 Did not qualify
1958 Quarter-finals 7/16 5 1 3 1 4 4
1962 Did not qualify
1966 Did not qualify
1970 Did not qualify
1974 Did not qualify
1978 Did not qualify
1982 Did not qualify
1986 Did not qualify
1990 Did not qualify
1994 Did not qualify
1998 Did not qualify
2002 Did not qualify
2006 Did not qualify
2010 Did not qualify
Total 1/19 1 Quarter-final 5 1 3 1 4 4

* Denotes draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.

UEFA European Football Championship record

  • 1960Did not enter
  • 1964-1970 – Did not qualify
  • 1976 - Quarter-Final (played on home and away leg basis)
  • 1980-2008 – Did not qualify


Wales play most of their home matches at the Millennium Stadiummarker, Cardiffmarker. The stadium was built in 1999 on the site of the old National Stadium, known as Cardiff Arms Parkmarker, 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, Swansea City and Wrexham, 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, a handful of friendly home matches have been played away from the Millennium Stadium at Swanseamarker's Liberty Stadiummarker and Wrexhammarker's Racecourse Groundmarker. However, with little recent success on the field, the 74,500 capacity Millennium stadium has only been around 20–40% full, leading to calls for some international matches to be held at Cardiff City Stadiummarker, the Liberty Stadium and the Racecourse Ground with capacities of 15,500-27,000. On 14 November 2009 Wales played their first international game at the Cardiff City Stadium when they hosted Scotland, in a friendly attended by 13,844 - almost exactly half the stadium's capacity.

See also


  1. History of the Irish FA at
  2. Qualification for 1958 World Cup at RSSSF
  3. John Toshack profile at BBC Sport Online
  4. Gould in racist row with Blake at Socialist Review
  5. Wales reprieve for Savage at BBC Sport Online
  6. Wales consider Euro 2004 appeal at BBC Sport Online

External links

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