Wales set to end 64 years of World Cup pain
England believe they struggled to win international football’s biggest prize for the second time (it’s been 56 years and counting in case you didn’t know).
Since that triumph in 1966, an England side have appeared in all three World Cup tournaments – no Welsh side have reached the final in the same period.
So whatever years of suffering England have had, they have, far more often than not, been present on the business side of the competition for almost six decades.
Gareth Southgate’s England qualified for Qatar 2022 later this year, and Wales are two wins away from joining them in the Middle East.
Wales fans, who have been suffering for a long time – at least in World Cup terms – could be on the verge of seeing their country end 64 years of suffering.
Pass a play-off semi-final against Austria in Cardiff on Thursday night and they will be 90 minutes from this winter’s final.
But how have Wales failed to qualify for a World Cup final since their only appearance in Sweden in 1958? (picture below)?
1962 – Chile
Hopes were high that Wales could back up their run to the last eight four years earlier by reaching the final in Chile.
Still under manager Jimmy Murphy, Wales were drawn into a qualifying group with Thursday’s opponents Austria, Denmark and Spain.
The Danes and Austrians withdrew, leaving Wales to battle with Spain over two legs for a place in South America.
The great Alfredo Di Stefano, playing for his third country after his native Argentina and then Colombia, grabbed the match winner in a 2-1 Spanish win at Cardiff.
Ivor Allchurch scored in the second leg in Spain but a 1-1 draw was more than enough to put the hosts through.
1966 – England
Wales finished second in their group, four points behind the Soviet Union, but there were no play-offs at the time.
A 2-0 loss to the Greek minnows after a first loss to Denmark did irreparable damage to Dave Bowen’s side’s chances of qualifying for the tournament just across the border.
1970 – Mexico
How good would it have been to see Wales mixing it up with Pelé, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto under the Mexican sun?
Unfortunately, that was not the case, even though there were only two other teams in their qualifying group.
However, Wales were overlooked by Italy, who would finish second in the tournament, and East Germany, ending the round robin useless.
1974 – West Germany
Four years later and another group of three teams, this time alongside England and Poland.
Drawing at Wembley and beating Poland at home gave Bowen’s men every chance to progress, but defeat at Katowice spelled their loss.
The Poles’ little-known draw in England also saw them fail to qualify, with the game being the last in charge for Alf Ramsey.
1978 – Argentina
After their run to the quarter-finals of Euro 1976, Wales, in a World Cup qualifying group with Scotland and Czechoslovakia, must have felt it was their moment.
The FAW, due to security concerns at Ninian Park and the racecourse, had somewhat controversially decided to move the main home clash with the Scots to Anfield headquarters in Liverpool.
The move backfired and the game looked more like a home game for Scotland as their fans flocked to the Merseyside site.
But worse was to follow for the Welsh as the referee awarded Scotland a penalty for a Dave Jones handball despite opposition striker Joe Jordan. (picture above) being in fact the one who manipulated him.
Don Masson converted on the spot and Kenny Dalglish added a second to put salt in the wounds.
1982 – Spain
After the near-miss under Mike Smith, Mike England took Wales to qualification for Spain ’82.
After winning three and drawing their first four games, Wales knew another win and a point from their last three matches would be enough to qualify.
They lost 3-0 in Czechoslovakia but led Iceland 1-0 at Swansea when the Vetch Field floodlights failed.
The interruption was seen as a contributing factor to England men losing a lead twice.
The loss to the Soviets in their last match ended their hopes.
1986 – Mexico
These sacred Scots have once again got the better of Wales.
Needing a win at Ninian Park, Mark Hughes put the hosts ahead and all looked good until another handball, the one given against Dave Phillips, allowed Davie Cooper to equalise.
Scotland’s joy in qualifying was overshadowed by the death of legendary manager Jock Stein (picture above) moments after the final whistle.
Wales missed on goal difference after Spain beat Iceland.
1990 – Italy
Getting out of a group that contained West Germany and the Netherlands was always going to be nigh on impossible, and it turned out.
Wales finished under the two big European guns and Finland in the table.
1994 – United States
Wales 1 Romania 2 – arguably one of the most painful scores in Welsh sporting history.
Going into their final qualifier against Gheorghe Hagi et al, Terry Yorath’s men needed a win to reach USA.
Hagi put Romania ahead only for Dean Saunders to equalise, and soon after Wales had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Gary Speed was fouled in the box.
Paul Bodin’s penalty (picture above) almost broke the crossbar. It certainly broke Welsh hearts.
Florin Raducioiu escaped to seal the game for the visitors, who then made the quarters in the United States, only being eliminated on penalties.
1998 – France
One of the worst campaigns under Bobby Gould saw Wales beaten 7-1 by the Netherlands and dispatching six goals to Turkey.
2002 – Japan and South Korea
Again, a forgettable campaign, with a win, against Belarus, to come in the final game.
2006 – Germany
Mark Hughes left as boss halfway through qualifying, and only finishing above Azerbaijan under John Toshack was all Wales could handle.
2010 – South Africa
A new generation of players emerged but the result was always the same.
2014 – Brazil
Chris Coleman had taken over after Gary Speed passed away just as the 2014 qualifying campaign began.
A draw against Scotland in Belgium was the high point – a 6-1 thrashing in Serbia was the low point.
2018 – Russia
So close and yet so far for Wales as the possibility of a play-off faded after a 1-0 loss to the Republic of Ireland.