Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Sight for Sore Welsh Footballing Eyes - No.45 in the World

Only back in August, Welsh football hit the doldrums. Placed at No.117 in the FIFA World Rankings, we had fallen below those footballing giants from Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Haiti and Guyana. Oh, and the Faroe Islands.

It resulted in the embarassing sight of Wales being drawn in the same bottom pot of European seeds for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup qualifying campaign as the likes of San Marino and Andorra.

But, back-to-back wins in the Euro qualifiers against Switzerland and Bulgaria have suddenly propelled Gary Speed's young team up to a 17 year high of 45th place in the world. This suddenly places Wales above the likes of the Czech Republic, Cameroon, Ukraine, Poland and Austria.

It also places them back above Scotland (51st) and Northern Ireland (84th) as the second highest Home Nation in the list behind 7th placed England.

Ironically, despite being drawn as one of the bottom seeds in that World Cup draw, things could've played out much worse. As it happens, Wales have been drawn in Group A in what will be a real Balkans hot-house. They will play Croatia (12th), Serbia (23rd), Belgium (37th) and Macedonia (93rd) who happen to be managed by former Wales boss John Toshack. Oh, and let's not forget Scotland.

It really is a quite ridiculous state of affairs but then, having fallen so low, winning against much higher rated teams will do wonders for your ranking and that's what Wales have done these past few months with 3 wins in 4 matches. Of course, the youthful, basic raw talent has always been there but only now are we starting to see what it can really do.

Speaking of Toshack, I do feel sorry for him. Because it was his policy of bringing through the Welsh youth onto the international stage from an early age that has set the basis for where Gary Speed's boys are today. Toshack's problem however was that he ran out of time. By playing the long-game, he effectively destroyed Wales' short-term aspirations. But maybe, just maybe, that long-term strategy may just reap dividends in the future. Here's hoping.

We're still a way off Wales' best-ever ranking of 27th that was achieved under Terry Yorath's leadership in August 1993, but this is at least improvement.

What next? This is Welsh football - I haven't got a clue.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing change from just a few years ago, when following Wales was horribly depressing, and going to the games was almost like a punishment.

    Speed may have taken a few games, but it's been a sensational turnaround, and hopefully it's going to be onward and upward to Brazil!