England 1-1 Cymru

For this 'Greatest Game' edition of FC Cymru we profile ten former Cymru managers and a match that defined each tenure. We continue with Dave Bowen and a crucial draw at Wembley.

England 1-1 Cymru – 24 January 1973 – Wembley Stadium, England

Cymru XI: Sprake (GK), England (c), Roberts, Rodrigues (Page 80), Thomas, Evans, Hockey, Mahoney, James, Toshack, Yorath.

Goals: Toshack (23).

Dave Bowen will be remembered as the man who captained Cymru at the 1958 FIFA World Cup finals in Sweden, but he also remains the longest-serving manager in the history of the national team having held the position between 1964 and 1974. Despite overseeing 53 matches during his time in charge, Cymru only claimed ten wins during that decade of international football, and few were of note. However, the side played a significant role in qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

A solitary goal from Colin Bell had earned England a 1-0 win over Cymru at Ninian Park in Cardiff in November 1972, but the return match would disrupt England's hopes of reaching the finals in Germany. Poland were the third team in Group 5 of that qualifying campaign, and England would eventually miss out on a place at the finals as they were famously held to a 1-1 draw against Poland at Wembley Stadium in the decisive match. Cymru would claim an impressive 2-0 win over Poland in March 1973, but suffered a 3-0 reverse in the return match in Chorzów that September.

However, while the victory over Poland was a significant result for Cymru and Bowen during his tenure, the draw against England that shaped the final group standings. John Toshack opened the scoring after 23 minutes as he combined with Leighton James, but Norman Hunter equalised for Alf Ramsey's side with a long-range effort just before half-time. Peter Rodrigues and captain Mike England defended superbly in the second half, with goalkeeper Gary Sprake putting in a heroic display to prevent the home side from taking maximum points.

"England failed to win a home game in that group which is what cost them,” said James to BBC Sport in 2004. “We really dented their chances of qualifying that night. I would not dispute that if they had beaten us they would probably have qualified, so we certainly put a spoke into the works that night and the pressure just mounted on them. We played very well at Wembley. England bombarded us and Norman Hunter scored with a 30-yarder just before half-time. You did not see him often over the halfway line, it showed how much pressure they put on us. We played very well and had a lot of heroes that night and thoroughly deserved the point.”

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