Keep those mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Welsh are still damn proud
Firstly, massive congrats to Portugal. Despite the bashing they got from ITV’s motley crew I actually think they played well. They pressed well, defended as a unit and took their chances. You dont get to the finals of a major competition without meriting it. Tournament football is as much about extra time and penalties as it is flashing three past Russia.
We missed Ramsay massively. King is a good player and worked his socks off but he is a completely different animal to Ramsey. He was never going to run at the defense and link up like Ramsay does. For me, he’s been the player of the tournament.
I live in a fairly depressing town in North Wales. Like a lot of medium sized places in Wales, it has a lot of problems. But the change in the place over the last 3 weeks, this last week in particular, has been wonderful. I counted four FanZones set up in the town, pubs giving away half-time drinks, thousands of people on the streets partying and cheering on the boys. It’s been a joy to watch (with zero trouble to boot), almost as lovely as the football itself.
The Welsh players will be disappointed in the morning, as we played quite poorly really (a lot of that down to the pressing of Portugal) but that’s just the thing. Wales are disappointed that they lost the semi-final of the Euros against a team containing the greatest athlete the game has ever seen. That’s a wonderful thing.
Personally, I am struggling to be morose about it. I will try my best to get there when the boys come home and I already know the reception they will get. I have been in bits for every game but they have repeatedly installed a belief in me that one day this team will be going one step further and competing in a final. They are a credit to their country, to Chris, to Gary Speed and to every single crying Welshman.
If anything typifies the Welsh it’s the 89th minute rendition of the anthem. Stirring and passionate and a microcosm of what the country stands for. As far as I’m concerned we won this tournament the moment it started. Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn.
Stu AFC Wrexham
…As I was saying to all my new found Welsh football fans, this was going to be the game we do a classic Wales. Wales always look like they are about to do something unbelievable (most of the time just qualifying for a tournament is unbelievable) but then always fail at what should be an easy hurdle.
After how well we have played and how poor Portugal have played I was thinking we must be able to win, I can’t see Portugal scoring….then my mind clicked and remembered this will be the game they start playing football and Rolando will have something to do with it all. After looking so strong and genuinely convincing as a football team we dropped in this game. Having no Ramsey connecting midfield to attack was definitely hindered us, King wasn’t the direct replacement. No Davies at the back throwing himself at every shot coming near him didn’t help neither. I can’t see that second goal happening with Davies sitting on the left of the CBs.
The most Wales part about it though was our first 2 substitutions, “just put 2 strikers on….don’t need an attacking midfielder”. This was the game Wales always have in a campaign, and tbh there was no avoiding it. We played the same 11 for every game, that is going to mean tired legs, especially for the full backs playing in this system.
However this tournament has been the greatest part of my footballing life! Everyone in Wales was just happy to be there but to have that feeling near the end of “OMG WE CAN WIN THIS!” was never suppose to happen. So for that I thank every last one of the Welsh team and staff! This has been a roller-coaster of a ride that I hope to jump on once again!
But Wales did waste their big chance
I hope someone, somewhere, among all the “Wales make me so proud” emails you are bound to receive, makes the point that Wales went out with an absolute whimper tonight.
Three shots on target, and I’m pretty sure that at least two (if not all three?) of those were Bale potshots from about 40 yards.
No attacking flair at all. People hound England to the ends of the earth for performances like that. What a waste.
(MC – It’s *almost* as if England and Wales should have different expectations.)
Some general conclusions
*Which journalist is going to be the first to awkwardly and needlessly attempt to combine the Jose Mourinho and Portugal-Wales stories? My guess is Neil Custis.
*Overly-laboured introduction of the day: the video for “Locked Out” by Crowded House was filmed in Wales, yet it was their song “Don’t Dream It’s Over” that was more apposite for Chris Coleman’s team last night.
*Now that’s out of the way, as much as Wales deserve commiserations, they were beaten on the night by the better team. Forget know-nothings with empty soundbites about “pride and passion”, Wales got this far through their hard work and good play. There is no denying their industry and effort last night, but Portugal just had a bit more quality throughout their team than Wales did without Aaron Ramsey.
*I realise I’m biased while I’m saying this, but the one question over Coleman’s selection was his choice of Andy King over Jonny Williams. While he doesn’t quite score as many as Dean Saunders thinks, King is still a greater goal threat than Williams; however, the Palace man has provided copious amounts of energy and could arguably have posed more problems for Portugal’s ageing defenders. It’s all hypothetical of course.
*Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener was the best headed goal since Connor Wickham in the FA Cup semi-final. Ronaldo versus James Chester always sounds like a mismatch, but the role of Ashley Williams in the goal needs looking at. Wales were marking zonally, with Chester in the middle of the six-yard line and Williams at the back post. However, when the cross came in, Williams didn’t react quickly enough, he was rooted to the ground, when perhaps on another occasion he might have reacted more quickly and jumped in to at least make it more difficult for Ronaldo.
*Portugal’s second goal was the perfect combination of skill, luck and hilarity. Skill, because Nani’s reaction to deflect the ball – and how he made contact, were not things everyone could do; luck, because there is never full certainty that such an attempt at goal will actually go in and not fly harmlessly past the post; hilarity, because it was a tame, low-percentage attempt by Ronaldo that someone else scored from, and also because Nani has basically been trolling Ronaldo all tournament long.
*ITV drafting in Mark Bowen as co-commentator was an interesting choice. For starters, he isn’t Glenn Hoddle, for which he deserves all of our praise, as do ITV for using someone else. He was clearly picked for being a former Wales coach, but the timing was good as he had been in the media talking about Stoke City’s unsuccessful attempts to sign Nani. I was wondering if he was going to be spectacularly b#tchy about him – he wasn’t, but that would have been funny.
*Wales’ group for the World Cup 2018 qualifying sees them take on Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova and Georgia. Without wishing to either be too dismissive of those teams, or over-vaunt Wales, but this must be the first time in a long time they will go into a tournament qualification thinking “we’ve got a genuine chance of winning this group”. Good luck to them.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Fair play to Bale…
I haven’t had much interest in this tournament and the only two matches I’ve watched both involved Wales, and unfortunately these were the two matches which they’d lost. I’d like to say though that I find it remarkable that even in the face of yesterday evening’s gut-wrenching loss, late in the second-half, Gareth Bale, who was forced to play quite deep due to a lack of supply, always played a pass to a team-mate whenever he found one in a better position.
Even in the closing minutes, usually when the One Man in a One Man Team would hog all of the ball or attempt outrageous hollywood passes, or also berate their lesser talented team mates when a pass is mis-hit, or a ball is miscontrolled, but none of that from Bale, who would often glance the ball to the likes of King, or Vokes, or Jonathan Williams whenever they were in a better position than he was.
While watching the match, I kept shouting ‘shoot!’ and grew quite frustrated whenever he lay a pass instead to these players who predictably failed to utilise the half-chances. Especially frustrating as we all know what a good shot he is… But as the final whistle blew I was actually not disappointed but proud. Bale is a team player; an excellent player and an excellent man, and everything that The Portuguese Winker is not.
In a similar situation Rooney or Gerrard would have hit terrible hollywood passes and run around like headless chickens, Ozil would have disappeared from the game altogether and would cut a very sulky and tragic figure, Ronaldo would try to attempt fifty stepovers and then burst into tears, and Thierry Henry would have humiliated his less talented team-mates with sarcastic applause at every natural mistake. But Bale kept to the plan and kept his faith in a group of players that quite simply could not deliver for him but a group of players he never for once felt were below his station. And that was very wonderful to see.
Kudos. Well done Wales.
…But this was Ronaldo’s night
Cracking game last night and full credit to Wales for their performance during the championships, they certainly deserve to return home to a hero’s welcome. Unfortunately, Wales came up against a boring, yet efficient Portugal team that is led by the greatest player to grace the game. I’m sure that will generate some laughter, some derision and some anger from a few but that is my honest opinion and I thought I’d elaborate on this a little further for those who are interested.
I believe that the two greatest players ever are Ronaldo and Messi. I believe this for the simple reason that they exist in a period where the game has never been played at such a high standard. The times where players smoked or drank at half-time, full-time, before and after games have been removed in the majority of professional leagues and replaced with an ever increasing emphasis on self-management and awareness in order to maximise the potential of players.
The days of a player plying his trade in Brazil for the majority of his career and plundering goal after goal, whilst cheekily including friendlies in those statistics, are long gone (I’m looking at you Pele). To play at the highest level year in year out is takes an awful lot of dedication, sacrifice and skill in the modern game, these two simply are the greatest.
I consider Ronaldo to be the greater out of the two, not by much, but just enough for him to shade it. Messi’s ability is superhuman, it was a gift from the gods and he is the most naturally gifted football to grace the game. But Ronaldo forged his own destiny, he created himself. Ronaldo’s determination and graft allowed him to sharpen his footballing skills so that he went from raw talent to goal-scoring machine. A man that creates himself against adversity is a man that I admire and respect, not that I don’t respect natural talent, I just believe that a man who has to work to be on par and even surpass the most natural gifted of all time is feat worthy of recognition until the end of time.
His jumping ability is unparalleled and deserves its own plaudits in the way that Messi’s control is lauded and Zidane’s grace is lauded, as a writer on here wrote shortly after the game last night. To be able to head a ball like that whilst maintaining a ridiculous amount of hang time is a skill that is both underappreciated and undervalued when compared with skills when the ball is at a players feet.
Even then Ronaldo is in the same league as Messi, Zidane, Cruyff and Maradona, just because his skill set is a bit audacious and can be seen as arrogance at times, it should not deter from the fact that his ball control and skill is up there with the greatest, a skill that he developed by tying weights to his feet to increase his speed.
Some will also point to the personality debate, where many have suggested that Ronaldo’s ego holds him back from being truly loved by all. Ronaldo’s ego is what has driven him and will continue to drive him until the day he dies. Without the ego, Ronaldo simply would not be another Nani, a player with immense talent who does not possess the work ethic and consistency to hit the dazzling heights over football’s genuine superstars. But that ego doesn’t transcend all of his life, he donates large sums of his wages to charities around the world and was recognised for his donation to the children of Palestine, a genuine philanthropist.
Ronaldo is audacious, egotistical and perpetuates his own stereotypes but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Without that personality and those traits he wouldn’t be the player he is today and I think we will all agree on one point, thank goodness that he is because I love seeing two of the greatest players ever grace a football field in my lifetime.
Have Portugal gone full circle?
In Euro 2004, the host nation (Portugal) with a much-criticised strike force (Nuno Gomes, Paulesta, Simao), but talent sprinkled elsewhere (Deco, Figo, Rui Costa, Costinha, Carvalho), and with an emerging superstar (Ronaldo), got shocked by a well-organised unit (Greece).
The parallels are there with France, should they conquer their neighbours in tonight’s semi-final. Much criticised strike-force? Check (Giroud, Gignac). Talent sprinkled elsewhere? Check (Greizmann, Kante, Payet, Coman, Lloris). Emerging superstar? Check (Pogba).
Portugal are going to go full circle on Sunday ain’t they?
Brian (would be genuinely thrilled to see Ronaldo win a major international tournament), Wexford.
Ronaldo’s tantrums are a necessary part of his greatness
Why does everyone always talk about Ronaldo’s tantrums as though they are something bad?
He makes it plain and clear that he doesn’t like losing, hates missing chances, loves scoring goals and winning football matches. Isn’t this what he is supposed to do?
Maybe some of our so-called top players should take a leaf out of the book of Ronaldo.
H (that was a thunderb*stard of a header)
Portugal reaching the final is a disgrace
Portugal getting to the final just shows you what a farce the new 24-team format is. If you take their games at 90 minutes only, they’ve won 1 game and drawn 5.
And they are in the final now. They have been awful, I’d argue that even England were performing better than them, in the group stage certainly. They’ve finished 3rd in their group, which was arguably the easiest group of the six, and should have been going home with their heads hung in shame – instead of that they’ve ended up with a relatively straightforward path through to the final, avoiding every ‘big’ nation along the way.
How can you have a tournament structure that allows that to happen? In my book, this is proof that the new format has failed, spectacularly. I’m sure they won’t go back to the 16 team format now, but some serious work needs to be done on the organisation before Euro 2020.
Olly Cole, THFC
(MC – That’s not how knockout football works, though. And this ‘awful’ team has beaten Croatia (who topped a group ahead of Spain), Poland (who drew with Germany) and Wales (who also topped a group and beat Belgium))
Mark Bowen fanmail
35 mins into the first half…
For the love of all things holy Mark. SHUT UP!
He’s actually putting me off Wales.
Ronaldo the computer game kid
Is it just me or did anyone else think Ronaldo resembled his PES counterpart when he picked himself up from under a swathe of celebrating Portuguese bodies to finish off his goalscoring animatio…I mean celebration?
Nick Salt, Durham
Actually excited by the EFL Cup
Read the headline to your EFL Trophy/Liverpool story as a United fan and thought “Good, I’ve not read one of your joke articles (non-c*nt England, Neviller Diarys, etc) for a while.
But as it turns out, they seem to have completely re-written the rulebook on cup competitions. I am completely bowled over at the new format and have to say bravo to whoever thought of it. As an avid fan of Bristol Rovers (I know typical United fan, blah, blah, blah) I cannot wait to be drawn against United and have their Under 21’s come visit the Mem, I’ll be there in my blue and white quarters.
In any case, the brilliant bit is the pot of money that will go to all League 1 & 2 clubs that will come directly from the “Invited clubs” home gate receipts. What a fantastic way for the big clubs help support the lesser funded ones who often struggle to get by.
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC