2016 World Cup : Grand Masters in Australia - The Verdict
By walesdragons, May 16 2016 08:51PM
A highly successful for Wales both on the pitch and off.
For the O60s the final position of 10th will be disappointing. Highlights of the group stage were a 1-1 draw with Germany and fine 3-0 win over Spain but in retrospect the Germany game was a missed opportunity. Germany ended 4th and if Wales had taken more chances in that game they would have been in the semi-finals. Injuries to key players contributed to a heavy defeat by eventual runners-up Australia, a poor penalty shoot out competition which saw them drop out of the quarter finals also and a further defeat to Ireland before they rallied and beat Malaysia in their final game. A big consolation was the fine goal scoring form of Zahid Arain who ended the World Cup with officially 9 goals (in reality 10) and was the leading scorer across all six sections of the tournament. Wales took a relatively inexperienced side to Australia and every player will have gained from the experience.
The O65s equalled theory 6th position from the 2014 World Cup but, as with the O60s, will look at opportunities missed as they were even closer to the semi-finals. An opening draw to World Champions the Netherlands seemed to be an excellent start but Wales had opportunities to win, similarly scoring only 2 goals against Belgium when rivals New Zealand and the Netherlands scored 7 and 5 respectively and a semi final place was narrowly missed on goal difference. However, the performances against the Netherlands, the 3-0 win over South Africa and the 2-1 loss to New Zealand were all excellent. Wales seemed better able to lift their game against the better teams, well illustrated by a poor draw with Scotland, who ultimately finished bottom, leaving them needing a win over Japan to take 5th place. Japan have improved considerably in the last 2 years and ultimately just about deserved their 1-0 victory. As with the O60s, many lessons will be learnt and the team will feel that when playing at their best they can compete with any nation.
Which brings me to the great success story: the O70s had a squad of only 12 and had to play 7 games, more than the O60s or 65s. They gave incredibly brave, battling performances to hold the might of both Australia, on Wales' first ever O70 international, and England in the semi-final to 0-2 defeats, gained theory first ever international victory over Japan in a pool game and ultimately defeated the same opponents in a nail biting bronze medal match by 1-0 on the penalty shoot out after the match ended 0-0. This result meant so much to the players that hardened and experienced internationals were seen on tears afterwards and was a tribute to the incredible hard work Glyn Thomas and Eric Evans put in to get a squad to Newcastle. All 12 were heroes on the pitch but special mention must go to Glyn who thwarted the Japanese in the shoot-out by keeping a clean sheet.
Off the pitch the strength of spirit in the Welsh party was demonstrated by the support the teams gave to each other, the wonderful support we had from spouses and partners, and the overall enjoyment of a memorable tournament of a beautiful and friendly city. Finally, very big thanks to the respective Captains: Ian Johnson, Ben Johnson and Glyn Thomas (plus Peter Havlin who captioned the O70s on the pitch), and Managers: Richard Evans, Gareth Hughes (who could not travel to Australia) and Eric Evans, for their hard work and dedication to the Welsh cause.
We now look forward with some optimism to the Four Nations tournament in Southgate on July and Celtic Cup in Lille on September