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It all comes down to Tuesday night for Wales. Surely now it’s time for neutrality?
Sunday, 14th Nov 2021 09:00 by Gruff Stephens

After a 5-1 win against group whipping boys Belarus last night Wales now find themselves just one point away from a positive draw in the World Cup play offs in March next year. Bizarrely written off by some as a nothing game Wales went second in their qualification group for Qatar 2022. At the start of this campaign every one would have signed up to this scenario for sure.

Now three points clear of the Czech Republic, Robert Page guided his side to a relatively easy win against Belarus in their World Cup qualifier. The negativity surrounding this game resulted in 5,000 empty seats in Cardiff last night, and a disappointed FAW will may well have to consider their entrance pricing for future internationals after the play offs in March. It’s been a long time since the national side were the best supported home national side in Europe when the Millennium stadium was utilised at £10 a head to secure 74,000 attendances at the start of the century. It’s accepted that games at Wrexham and Swansea are may be not the best idea, but games at the Cardiff City stadium are fast becoming on par.

A return to more sensible pricing, and an innovative move to the Millennium surely needs to be on the FAW agenda come 2022. If nothing else the desire to encourage a new generation of Wales followers on neutral territory surely can’t do Wales football future any harm. Surely long gone are the days of club rivalry at these events when one supporter would bring five flags to a game to reinforce one clubs desire to manipulate a false pretence they solely follow the national side. That’s the message from last nights game for many, especially those who do not attend games such as we witnessed last night.

Empty seats are not good enough for Wales in 2022

Wales were well down the road to an easy victory after twenty minutes after Aaron Ramsey scored very early on in the game. After that even though ball retention was difficult, the result was never in doubt. With a 2-0 lead and Belarus offering little threat, Gareth Bale was taken off at half-time as a precaution with the Real Madrid forward playing for the first time since tearing his hamstring in September. As a result, he passed the captain's armband and penalty-taking duties to Ramsey, who punished Ruslan Yudenkov's handball by sending Chernik the wrong way from the spot. Ben Davies was the next to score with a rather scruffy effort off his shoulder from Harry Wilson's corner and, although Kontsevoi's rocket gave Belarus a late reason to cheer, Wales had the final say as Connor Roberts deftly volleyed in at the near post from a free-kick.

Aaron Ramsey celebrates the opening goal

However, despite the victory and an extremely decent second place come the final round of games on Tuesday surely now the FAW have to reconsider their strategy of playing Wales games at Cardiff’s home ground. It doesn’t sit well with many followers of Wales, especially those who follow clubs, and they are in the majority, away from the capital city. To be together stronger you have to be together from the start. We only saw that in France in 2016 when the disruptive influences from both Cardiff and Swansea were outnumbered by many thousands of Wales followers from other parts of the country. Wales needs neutral territory, and it needs to be united in that decision. The attendance last night is proof alone that the Millennium stadium needs to be the proper choice next year.

Wales don’t play in blue and they don’t play in white. The national side play in red, the colour that unites a whole country, not a few biased old men at the FAW, and certainly not a few balding sixty year olds stuck in the seventies and eighties. That’s the message from this game. As I left the stadium and ventured into the city last night police sirens were heard, flashing blue lights were seen, and Wales followers fought in certain bars and pubs over a stupid rivalry I thought we had seen the end of.

It’s time to start carefully thinking about the timing and locations of our national sides games, and may be then I can take my ten year old son to watch his national team. And may be then a seven year old and his uncle from Wrexham can put their Wales flag up at a Wales game without it being ripped down and then terrified by thick ill educated morons.

And all this on a night that Wales finest footballer since Ian Rush gained his one hundredth cap for the country he loves. Mad isn’t it ?

Wales: Ward (Hennessey 90); Ampadu, Rodon, B Davies; Roberts, Ramsey (Morrell 71), Allen, N Williams; Bale (C) (Johnson 46), Wilson, James (T Roberts 76).

Subs not used: A Davies, Gunter, Mepham, Colwill, Thomas, Vaulks, Harris, Williams.

Goals: Ramsey 2 & 50, N Williams 20, B Davies 77, Roberts 90

Yellow card: Ampadu 59

Belarus: Chernik (C); Zolotov (Yuzepchuk 71), Shvetsov, Naumov, Yudenkov (Kontsevoi 81); Pechenin, Selyava, Yablonski, Klimovich (Ebong 71); Sedko (Antilevski 60), V Lisakovich (Bakhar 81).

Subs not used: Khatkevich, Pavluychenko, Shevchenko, Sokol, Solovei, R Lisakovich, Levitski.

Goal: Kontsevoi 87

Yellow cards: Zolotov 25, Antilevski 79, Ebong 82

Referee: Maurizio Mariani

Attendance: 27,152

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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