GREATEST GAME EDITION
GREATEST GAME EDITION
Cymru 4-1 Norway – 12 November 2011 – Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff.
Cymru XI: Hennessey (GK), Gunter, Matthews, Williams, Blake, Bale, Allen (Robson-Kanu 76), Crofts, Ramsey (c) (King 90), Bellamy (Edwards 90), Morison (Vokes 70).
Goals: Bale (11), Bellamy (16), Vokes (88) (89).
The signs of progress under Gary Speed throughout the course of 2011 were clear as the former midfielder looked to change the culture and introduce a new standard of professionalism into the senior national team. While off the field issues were addressed, the direction of the team on the field culminated in this convincing and impressive friendly victory over a talented Norway side at the Cardiff City Stadium.
With Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy playing in attacking wide positions, the pace of the duo caused huge problems for the visiting defence from the start, and both players found the target inside the opening 16 minutes as Cymru established an early and deserved two-goal lead. A mistake by goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey on the hour mark allowed Norway to pull a goal back through Erik Huseklepp, but substitute Sam Vokes completed the scoring for the home side with two goals in the final minutes of the match.
“I think Gary's got a good squad and he's instilled a confidence in them that wasn't there before,” explained former Cymru striker Iwan Roberts to Talksport the day after the match. “We're scoring goals and not depending on one person to get them. We've finished the year off in outstanding form. We're in a group for the next qualifying campaign that we can be really competitive in and the future is really looking bright for us. I think we've turned the corner now, and we don't need to be fearful of anyone. The whole of the nation has been lifted over the last four games.”
But the national euphoria would turn to devastation before the end of the month. On Sunday morning, 27th November 2011, it was announced that Gary Speed had passed away at the age of just 42. The legacy of his work during the course of the ten games that he oversaw during his calendar year at the helm of the national team he loved continues to this day, and his successors have inherited a strong platform in terms of the professionalism required to compete in the modern international game. Football is defined by the highs and lows, but this was a human tragedy that emphasised both the power and irrelevance of the beautiful game as the sporting world came together to remember of one of the true greats of the modern era.