GREATEST GAME EDITION
GREATEST GAME EDITION
Slovakia 2-5 Cymru – 12 September 2007 – Anton Malatinský Stadium, Slovakia.
Cymru XI: Hennessey (GK), Gabbidon, Ricketts, Collins, Morgan, Bale, Davies, Ledley (Vaughan 85), Robinson, Bellamy, Eastwood (Fletcher 73).
Goals: Eastwood (22), Bellamy (34) (41), Durica (78 og), Davies (90).
Returning for a second spell as manager, John Toshack's era will be remembered for bringing through the likes of Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and others who would later achieve unparalleled success in the colours of Cymru. Toshack's first spell lasted just 47 days and one match when he initially replaced Terry Yorath, but between 2004 and 2010 he would take charge of 53 international fixtures, and with the support of Brian Flynn, he would shape the future of national team even though he failed to reap the benefits himself.
Cymru were joined by six other nations in an expanded UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying group as Germany, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and San Marino completed Group D. Starting the campaign with a 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic in September 2006, Cymru would suffer an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Slovakia in Cardiff a month later. However, the match was significant in that Bale scored his first senior international goal with a trademark free-kick.
Victories over Cyprus and San Marino were complimented by a credible draw with the Czech Republic over the course of the following year, but defeats to the Republic of Ireland and Germany meant that qualification was never likely to be a realistic proposition. Despite this, Cymru would score five for the one and only time under Toshack in the return match against Slovakia in Trnava in September 2007, with Freddy Eastwood, Simon Davies, an own goal from Ján Durica and a brace from Craig Bellamy completing the 5-2 win. A 3-1 defeat to Cyprus in Nicosia the following month meant that the campaign would end in the usual way for Cymru as the side finished the group in fifth place.
“No one expected Wales to win 5-2 out in Slovakia,” said former Cymru captain Kevin Ratcliffe in his BBC Sport column following the match. “I'm pleased for the players, pleased for John Toshack and pleased for the supporters especially. Craig Bellamy had an exceptional game, but it was tremendous the way the whole team came out in the second half. There were a few flaws in the first half but they addressed them at half-time and came out firing. John Toshack has got the right method but at times I've felt we haven't always got in people's faces and closed people down. The goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, was outstanding by the way - he is an outstanding find and he's got a big future in the game.”