2016 World Cup : Grand Masters in Australia - Finals Day
By walesdragons, May 16 2016 08:48PM
Day 10 dawned early for the Wales O70s as they prepared to play Japan at 9.15 in their bronze medal play-off with a weight of expectation extended by the added pressure of having been forced to play a meaningless 'friendly' match with a thankfully obliging Australia O75 side the day before whilst Japan had a day off.
For the first half, Wales were marginally on top, dealing with Japan's long ball tactics and close range skills and speed effectively and creating chances of their own. As the match wore on, Japan grew in confidence and as their through balls began to reach Japanese sticks more often, they created more chances of their own but the Welsh defence marshalled superbly as ever by Alan Coles and with Glyn Thomas making some outstanding saves in goal, kept them at bay. Wales were hampered by long term injuries to midfielders Simon Williams and Peter Havlin but they bravely fought to retain an equal share of midfield and so cut off some of Japan's intended long balls at source. As the game wore on, the benefit of the rest day for Japan became apparent as they finished stronger but Wales held on with great determination and the final whistle came with relief to all with the score remaining 0-0.
This meant a penalty shoot out which few if any players from either side had taken part in before, so enormous credit to the 5 Welsh players who stepped up to the plate under great pressure. Martin Day (scorer of Wales' first ever O60 and O70 goals calmly added to this feat by comprehensively beating the Japanese goalkeeper to give Wales the lead which through agonising tension was not Pete Havlin had brave but unsuccessful attempts. The absolute hero however was goalkeeper, O70 Captain and Wales' oldest player, Glyn Thomas who stood up magnificently and held his ground to all 5 Japanese attempts forcing them wide and either saving their shots directly or forcing them wide and out of time.
Scenes of absolute joy followed as Glyn disappeared under a pile of ecstatic Welsh players as Wales achieved their first ever medal at any age group at a World Cup - heroes all and what it meant to the team was visible as hard men who had been fighting for this moment for many years were seen in tears and the many supporters were able to celebrate as best one can at 11.00am in the morning.