As soon as this game was announced, I could barely contain my indifference.
It’s not that I’m scared of playing England, it just doesn’t excite me. I don’t worry about losing, I’m Welsh, I’m used to it. To paraphrase Bane, I didn’t taste an international tournament until I was already a man. I’m not even sure there is a word in the Welsh language for “victory” and I’m too busy to check.
So yeah, defeat doesn’t bother me. I took for granted we would probably lose, whatever team Southgate chose to put out.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist. If our first eleven went up against England’s first eleven in a competitive game, I’d fancy our chances. Nine times out of ten we’d lose, given the difference in quality, but that one time is always a possibility.
But with so many injuries and needing to rest some of our stars for the Nations League (which I love and genuinely care about), I really could summon any enthusiasm for this game. Especially considering the English fans were always going to care so much more about it than us and were entirely predictable in their gloating of having beaten us with their B team, and ignoring the fact we pretty much had our B team out too.
But I watched the game anyway. I don’t normally like international friendlies at the best of time. They always seem like such a non event, unless they’re in Wrexham, in which case, I’m all over that shit and it is the most important game in the history of everything (in your face Liechenstein and Norway!).
I tried to get interested. I’ve wanted to see Rabbi Matondo for a while. I’ve heard he’s pretty quick and I love nothing more than bloody fast wingers. So him starting was a highlight for me. Especially as he showed a few flashes of potential. He’s nowhere near up to the standard where he’d start ahead of Bale or Dan James, but with a few more games under his belt, hopefully him and Neco Williams can prove to be dangerous substitutions late in the game when Dan and Gareth have run the defences ragged and we bring on their fresh legs.
Aside from that I don’t really have a lot to say about the game.
I have concerns, but they are really only minor.
The biggest has to be the injury to Kiefer Moore, given that Hal Hobson Kanu has broken his arm. This leaves us without a centre forward for the next two Nations League games. When Kiefer went off, you could just feel the collective deflation around the country. With him on, we might have snuck a goal or two and shut up shop. With him off, I just didn’t see where the goals might come from.
Not a concern as such, but I’m still to be sold on Ethan Ampadu. I heard so many good things about him and his quality, but I’ve yet to see it personally. Maybe I’m not a sophisticated pundit so don’t fully understand what he brings to the team. I’d love to be proven wrong and him to suddenly kick off and be amazing, but so far, I struggle to see what the fuss is about.
Yes, I know he’s a young lad with his whole career ahead of him and it’s way too early to judge him. Yet people are judging him and coming to the conclusion that he is the next big thing.
I really am rooting for the lad and want him to be amazing. I check the Sheffield United squad every week so see if he got on the pitch, as I did with Leipzig last season. I feel like I have a vested interest in his awesomeness and am just waiting for it to burst out so I can be like the guy in Zoolander when Magnum is finally revealed, lying on the floor and screaming “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”
But it concerns me that he has played more games for Wales than he has for any club combined. Still.
I just wonder why clubs like Sheffield United and Leipzig took him on loan to not play him. Part of me wishes he’d drop to the Championship and get some real game time under his belt and build some confidence. Even the best (*cough* Bale *cough* Dan James) need to be playing regularly to then play for Wales at their full potential.
I don’t know. As I say, I’m not the most sophisticated observer, especially when it comes to defensive positions. It’s easy to see then potential of Dan James and Neco Williams when they’re doing the sexy stuff like scoring and setting up goals. Ethan could be quietly brilliant and it just goes over my head and I’m really unfair on the kid. I really hope that’s the case and someone can educate me so I can truly appreciate his quality.
My other takeaway from the game is the defensive performance for the three goals.
Say what we want about it being our B team out, that defence, with the exception of Joe Rodon (who is tipped to be the next big thing anyway), was what you would expect to see lining up for Wales game after game. That was not our B team defence and they just looked inept for all three goals.
People who don’t watch Wales say that Gareth Bale is our only player. And in reply I ask them how Bale kept all those clean sheets as a forward.
Yes, Bale has scored a lot of important goals, but what has qualified us for the last two Euros has been our fantastic defensive work. We let in six goals in qualifying. Same as England. No one scored more than two in a game against us (unlike England) and we had the World Cup runners up in our group (whereas England has Kosovo). Our success is built on keeping the opposition out and allowing our plethora of attacking talent to grab the winner for us.
The performance for the three goals was disappointing. Had it been with our full strength team ahead of them, in a match that meant something more than filling a gap when we thought the world would be in lockdown, then I might be concerned.
As it stands, I’m just gonna shake it off and back the same five to do a job against Ireland on Sunday, when I really will care and really will be shouting at the telly.
This is just one to wrap tomorrow’s fish and chips in.
No one cares. Except a few English people on Twitter and there’s not really a lot for them to do these days. Let them have their fun. They’ve got Belgium next so it won’t last long.