Red Dragon Rising:The rebirth of Wales


Of the five debutants in the UEFA Euro 2016 in France,Wales went the most furthest by making an appearance in the semifinals and that was in their second appearance in a major football tournament in almost 60 years.The last time Wales was featured in a major football tournament was in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden where under Jimmy Murphy and a squad made of legends like Ivor Allchurch,Cliff Jones and John Charles they made the quarterfinals where a 17-year.old Pele scored the only goal against the Dragons in the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Wales.That would be the last appearance in a major football tournament of the Dragons until now.From Joe Jordan’s hand in the 1977 qualifying match against Scotland which denied them a place in the World Cup in Argentina to the defeat in the playoffs for the 2004 Euros in Portugal against RussiaIn total it took 13 qualifying cmapaings that Wales qualifies for a major football tournament besides that Wales had through its history players like John Toshack,Ian Rush,Mark Hughes,Ryan Giggs,John Hartson,Craig Bellamy and most notably Gary Speed.It was Gary Speed which initiated the rise of Wales in the last six years.In 2010 Gary Speed was hired as the manager of Wales and led them from a 11oth place to a 48th in a single year,unfortunately just after a year of being the manager of the Dragons,Gary Speed committed suicide in the garage of his home in Huntington which was one hour away from the stadium of Manchester United which is  Old Trafford.As a repleacement Chris Coleman which was the former manager of Fulham was hired.Coleman’s reign began with defeats against Belgium and Serbia for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil which Wales didn’t made it since it finished second from bottom only being slightly better than Macedonia by only 3 points and after the disastrous defeat against Serbia at the beginning of the qualifications which was a 6-1 trouncing in Novi Sad,Coleman thought to leave the bench of the Dragons,nevertheless he stayed preparing the team for better days.The disastrous campaign for the World Cup in Brazil also meant a a slip in the rankings for the Dragons where they found themselves at the 82th place,but from 2013 the Dragons began a climb to the top of the FIFA rankings and never saw to drop again.For the qualifiers for the 2016 European Championships in France,the Dragons were drawed in a group with Belgium,Bosnia-Herzegovina,Cyprus,Israel and Andorra.Under their star leader Gareth Bale and his second in command and Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey,the Dragons collected 21 points and they lost only one match against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica,but with Israel’s defeat against Cyprus that was enough to make their debut at the European Championships and to qualify for a major football tournament in almost 60 years.In France,the Dragons made history and wrote one of the most beautiful stories of the Euros in France.In a group with Slovakia,Russia and their neighbors from the east,England.Wales won its group with six points besides a defeat in the final moments of the match against England in Lens.Through a lucky own goal against Northern Ireland in the 2nd round they found themselves against Belgium which they met for two consecutive qualifications.In a match which Belgium’s golden generation was expected to deliver to silence ever further their critics,deliver a triumph which would bring them closer to the final of the European Championships and prove that the current generation has a huge value besides a talent and a potential,it became the match of the generation for the Dragons and Gareth Bale.From Ashely Williams’s equalizing goal,through Robson-Kanu’s Cruyff turn and spectacular goal to Sam Volkes’s header which sent the Red Devils home.Lille became a place of joy and history of the current generation of the Dragons under Bale with Coleman incorporating a strong culture of team spirit besides fewer quality players on the bench than other national teams.With Bale carrying the team on the field assisted by Ramsey,Allen,Gunter,Williams and Robson-Kanu as the second fiddles,Coleman incorporating a strong culture of team spirit,the Dragons made to the semifinal of the European Championships in France and fell short against later winners of the tournament-a Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal.Nevertheless Wales was one of the stories of the Euros in France together with Iceland and changed the European football landscape.Meanwhile at the FIFA World Rankings,the Dragons made it to the 11th place with a possibility to break into the top 10 for the first tme in its history.With a promising qualifying group for the World Cup in Russia which consists of Austria,Republic OF Ireland,Serbia,Moldova and Georgia,the Dragons are heavily favored to win the automatic qualification spot and make their first trip to the World Cup since Sweden almost sixty years ago and that the dream for Wales will continue.

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