Many may consider Wales’ national sport to be rugby, but our footballing heritage is rich and colourful, Wales has produced some of the sport’s most famous players, memorable matches, and the third oldest club in the world (now owned by two of Hollywood’s biggest names). Now, the Wales men’s football team look forward to their return to a FIFA World Cup, 64 years since their last appearance.

Wales is home to students from around the world, who are happy to call us their ‘second team’ and support Rob Page and his players on their journey in Qatar. If you’re new to Wales, you might not be familiar with our history with football, read on to see some of our sporting milestones.

Wrexham – 1864

The first football club in Wales, and third oldest in the world is founded. Wrexham AFC was founded by members of the Wrexham Cricket Club as an alternative sport to play in the winter months, who played their first match 1864 against members of the Prince of Wales Fire Brigade.

Wrexham – 1876

A group of businessmen came together at the Wynnstay Arms Hotel in Wrexham, to form a national team to play against Scotland, and founded the Football Association of Wales (FAW). The first competitive game then followed in March 1876, where Scotland won 4-0, and again triumphed at a reverse fixture held at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham.

Cardiff – 1927

The capital city of Wales won the FA Cup in 1927 at the 'Empire Stadium’ the original Wembley Stadium in London. The first and only Welsh team to ever take the most prestigious cup in English football out of England! In 2008, Cardiff City came close to reliving such glories but were defeated in the final 1-0 by Portsmouth.

Sweden – 1958

Wales’ first and until recently, only World Cup appearance. Wales competed in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden, playing the host nation, Mexico, and Hungary, before being knocked out in the quarter-finals by Brazil, 1-0, with that single goal coming from a 17-year old Pele, who would become one of the greatest players of all time. Brazil then went on to win the 1958 World Cup.

Yugoslavia – 1976

Wales qualified for the 1976 European Championships which were hosted in Yugoslavia. Wales, unlike the other home nations, qualified from the group stages before coming within touching distance of reaching the semi-finals, losing to hosts Yugoslavia 3-1.

The Wales’ men’s team entered into a period for the country marked by coming so close to qualifying for a major tournament but falling just short. World-class players like Mark Hughes, Neville Southall, and Ian Rush were never able to represent Wales at a major tournament.

That is until in 2010, when the FAW appointed former player, Gary Speed to be manager of the national team. Kicking off a period of unprecedent success thanks to his bringing through a golden generation of youngsters, who we now call Welsh legends.

Madrid – 2013

Wales captain, then a 24-year old winger for Premier League club, Tottenham Hotspur completed a move to Read Madrid for a world record fee of £86 million (€100 million) becoming the most expensive football player (at the time of the deal).

At Real Madrid, Gareth Bale won an impressive 16 trophies, including five Champions League title (with the 2017 final being played in his home city, Cardiff).

Bale became Wales captain in 2021 and continues to lead from the front becoming our record goal scorer in 2018. He left Real Madrid in 2022 and has crossed the Atlantic to sign for Los Angeles FC. Bale’s global reputation and talent has helped raise awareness of the Wales national team, and gain supporters from around the world.

France - 2016

Decades of coming close but failing to qualify for a major tournament ended when Wales earnt their place in the 2016 European Championships in France. Managed by Chris Coleman, Wales made an unprecedented run to the semi-finals, having beaten Belgium (at the time ranked 5th in the world) 3-1 in an iconic match.  

Wales faced Portugal in the semi-final, sadly, losing 2-0. However, the nation could not have been prouder and welcomed the team back to Cardiff with an open-top bus parade and a huge showing of support at Cardiff Castle and the Cardiff City Stadium.

This tournament truly put Wales on the map as a footballing nation not to be underestimated, and inspiring the next generation of girls and boys to get into the sport.

Europe – 2021

Spurred on by the success of 2016, Wales qualified for its second European championship at the delayed 2020 Euros, being held all across Europe to mark the competitions 60th anniversary.

Wales faced a tough group stage including Switzerland, Turkey, and eventual champions Italy, but qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing second in the group. Despite a valiant performance, Wales lost 4-0 to Denmark in the Round of 16 and exited the Euros, but again made the nation proud and built further momentum for a charge to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

World Cup – 2022

64 years of waiting, Wales are ready to make their return to the biggest stage in world football.

Wales will face the USA, England and Iran in the group stages of the 2022 World Cup, cheered on by a nation of lifelong fans, and new supporters from around the world who call Wales home.

Rob Page, Gareth Bale, and all the Cymru team have a world-wide red wall cheering them on. C’mon Cymru!

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