Whatever your thoughts are of the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar, there is no doubt it has produced some of the most thrilling matches we have seen in the history of the competition.
From the giant-killing shocks and final-round tension of the group games to the free-flowing displays of attacking football in the knockout stages of Brazil, Portugal and France (and England to a lesser extent), it’s been compelling viewing. While ultimately disappointing, the feeling of pride at seeing Wales participating in a World Cup again after a hiatus of 64 years was indescribable. Their heroics in the preliminary qualifying stages and then the play-off successes against Austria and Ukraine were entertainment of the highest order.
Fan zones on High Street, at Tŷ Pawb and by The Turf were packed for the three games with big crowds and passionate support. Even celebrities like Luca Bish from Love Island were seen cheering Wales on. Despite the poor weather conditions on the day of the clash against the US, the Turf reported an attendance of nearly 400! Local band The Declan Swans also appeared to entertain the crowd on the day of the game against England.
A special mention for Neco Williams, who played against the US despite his grandfather passing away the night before the match. Neco is a former pupil of Ysgol Rhiwabon and grew up in Cefn Mawr.
Wales’ performances were varied, with the second half against the Americans being the high point. The US outplayed Cymru in the first half, going into the break 1-0 ahead. The stand-out performer on the day was Christian Pusulic. His through-ball allowed Timothy Weah (son of ex-Milan and Liberia star George) to evade Williams and put the US one-up in the 35th minute.
It was deserved as Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy had already prevented an own goal from Joe Rodon and an American shot had cannoned off the post a few minutes later.
Robert Page decided to introduce Bournemouth forward Kieffer Moore for the second half. Wales finally started to come into the game. Moore gave them a focal point for their attacks and he also headed narrowly over from a corner. Nevertheless, even after dominating proceedings, they had still only managed four attempts on American keeper Matt Turner’s goal.
Just when time was running out, Brennan Johnson took a quick throw-in to Aaron Ramsey. His low pass into the American penalty area was about to reach Gareth Bale. However, US centre back Walker Zimmerman tried to intercept the ball and brought Bale down for a clear penalty.
Gareth composed himself and blasted an unstoppable spot kick into the top right-hand corner of the net. That was as good as it got for Wales. Subsequent defeats by Iran and England dumped them out of the competition.
Cymru now look forward to a new challenge as they commence qualification for Euro 2024.
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