The end of the world: when Hagia Romania broke Wales's heart – qualifications for the UEFA World Cup 2018 – football


Eleven countries played once and once in the World Championship. Some even provided some important moments; East Germany again surprised West in its home tournament in 1974, while Haiti led a shock in Italy in the same tournament and finished the record of Dino Zoff at 1.142 minutes without achieving the international goal. In most cases these single-sided wonders were not stale. When the teams are finished, most of them have gone home, with teams that regularly challenge the tournament, continue with serious business.

One of the few exceptions here is Wales. Their team was booked on home flats for the end of the first round in Sweden in 1958. After three matches, they ended up in group stages in Hungary to advance to the quarterfinals. Wales's greatest player, John Charles, lost that game through injury; The biggest players of their opponents were only 17 years old and they decided to go. Pele reached the sole goal of the game to send Brazil through, and Wales narrowly lost to potential world champions.

There was a taste of honey, which Walesh football has not experienced since then. Their attempts to return to the World Cup in tournaments across Sweden form a catalog of disappointments. In 1977 and 1985, Scotland stopped in unusual similar circumstances; on both occasions, the late penalty imposed against Wales changed the result in favor of Scotland. Since the agonies of the near-miss qualification in previous years were not limited to the World Cup. Wales also approached qualifications for the finals of the European Championship for the first time in 1976, 1984, 1988 and 1992. However, no qualifying heartbeat was likened to Cardiff on November 17, 1993, before or in the soul of the Great Football.

It was the last night of the World Cup, qualifying all over Europe, with Wales in a rare position when it was the UK team with the best opportunities to reach the finals in the United States. Their match against Romania was the highlight of the campaign, which linked the team to its public in a way that it had not seen before, the flourishing relationship recorded by Andy Williams. Victory had the potential to change Welsh football and the federation of nations with football forever. But that was not. According to one of the most fatal criminal delays in British football history, the Romanian side was often gifted, led by the brilliant Gheorghe Hagi, went to the finals. In the United States, it would enchant the world; Welsh football was left to think about how its own team collapsed.

"That night, I returned to the hotel and cried," said later their manager Terry Yorath. "I knew that as an actor and manager, I would be as close as I could get to the World Cup finals. I knew it would not come again."

1. Rust, Renewal and Ryan

Ryan Giggs presents a photo with the Welsh national team in 1993

Ryan Giggs presents a photo with the Welsh national team in 1993Getty Images

The story of how Wales came into that crisis is incredible. Yorath, the former midfielder Leeds United, Coventry and Tottenham and Welsh international, took over the team in 1988. The first place in his tray was to try and qualify for the World Championship in Italy in 1990; Wales finished the bottom of a qualified group, which included West Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, without a win in the game. The public interest in competitions was almost moderately low. The domestic qualifier against the Netherlands, which was the dominant European champion, was challenged before 9,025 fans in Ninian Park in Cardiff.

When the next qualifying campaign for the World Cup came around early signs, it's likely that the pattern will change slightly. Wales were ranked in the Qualified Group with Belgium, Romania, the Czech and Slovakian Representations (RCS), Cyprus and the Faroe Islands. Their first game, which was held in Bucharest in May 1992, was a brutal experience in many senses.

"The state was in terrible condition, and children are asking everywhere," said Neville Southall Binman chronicles. "People did not have anything. At this stage, we started with our own cooks in these countries and if we left anything on the table – a brown sauce or ketchup, whatever it would be, it was a dark place." In the immediate era of Čaušesk, one of the lanterns of hope for the Romanian citizens was their football team, which in Italy, 90 promised a promising return and turned into a sensational dress. Wales was completely broken in the first half and sent five goals in 35 minutes and eventually lost 5-1.

" Stop what you're doing now, and just look at this kid"

Yorath regretted that he played again this day and switched his team to 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 for the remainder of the campaign. In spite of the apocalyptic start, optimism has surfaced around the great international football, which has been steadily rising in Yorath over the years. Wales left the qualifications for the European Championship in 1992 and defeated them in the Cardiff Arms Park in 1991. In the same year, Brazil took over Brazil. The excellent mood of these results meant that the Football Association of Wales (FAW) abandoned its policy of using the national stadium only for marquees and decided to use it for all World Cup qualifications. What really transformed the campaign for Wales was the introduction of the wing wing, which was born in the Canton and school in Swinton.

"We all knew that Ryan was 16 years old," says David Phillips, a tennis player for Eurosport. "I remember seeing him in Chepstow and Terry Yorath turned around and said:" Stop what you are doing now and just look at this kid. Look how fast it is. "" As with Manchester United, the skill that Giggs combined with his speed helped to quickly follow his way to the first team, where he became the youngest player to represent Wales at the end of 1991.

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What could be: How Wales could look at the album "Panini"Eurosport

After some substitute appearances, Giggs was his first start for Wales in the domestic qualification round with Belgium in March 1993. His influence was sensational as he moved his brion club genius into an international game right away. Giggs carved with a beautiful free shot to guide Wales. Ian Rush was later added by others, his 24th international goal and the new Welsh record. This victory replaced the 2-0 loss in Brussels five months earlier and changed the course of the campaign for Wales. The effect of Giggs was sensational. "Ryan was a world class, even as an 18-year-old," says Phillips. "He still had proof things, but it was crucial that we were particularly well at the back of this campaign."

Wales will finalize its qualified departments in autumn 1993 with three domestic games against RCS, Cyprus and Romania. The group was claustrophobically tight, with the best four teams having all the points of the horse trade being one from the other. Wales could only reach RCS in September with 2: 2, again with Giggs and Rush; They supported this with a nervous 2-0 victory over Cyprus a month later. The victory was guaranteed only with the goals of Dean Saunders and Rush in the last twenty minutes, against opponents who ended the game with only nine players.

Nevertheless, work was done. Permutations for the last group were complex, Belgium, Romania, RCS and Wales were separated by two points and all played at the last qualifying evening. Wales had to beat two goals in qualifying for the World Cup in Romania. Belgium played RCS in a simultaneous match in Brussels, and if the RCS did not win, then every victory against the Romanians would be set by Welsh and the Belgians. Romania just needed a willingness to make progress. It all climbed one thing for Wales: just win in Cardiff.

2. I can not take my eyes from you

The fans of Wales are attending the Romanian Games

The fans of Wales are attending the Romanian GamesGetty Images

If they had one thing in their favor, it was a start. This journey with the autumn domestic games has captured the imagination of the Welsh public, as it is possible to qualify for the first world championship in the 36 years, tantalizing. The 1958 team in Sweden performed her heroic life in her hero before the television coverage of the football really took off and existed mostly in the legend. The Yorath team took Wales to what it felt like an exciting journey to the unknown. They raised the profile of the second most popular sport in the country to the point where they began to challenge the rarely controversial hegemony of the first. By November, Welsh's T-shirt in Wales equaled its rugby equivalent; just a week before the Romanian game, the Rugby side reached the fall of an unfortunate fall in the early nineties when he lost his place in the Canadian Canadian Park.

BBC Wales has detected a change in the atmosphere. Their promoter, John Morgan, came up with an idea for a series of TV commercials for Wales in the autumn. Inspired by the unlikely source of the singing bar scene from Deer HunterMorgan decided that you can not take it as your underlining. Over time, the BBC has used the version of Andy Williams, and not the film's efforts by Frank Valli. The song, with an infectious choir, soon found its way to the loud chords of the rising crowd at Arms Park stands.

The ad played through the images of targeted celebrations of the team, where everyone ran to one corner of the pitch and everyone was pretending to swing the golf club. It was the most famous association of football and golf history in history until Craig Bellamy decided to make Ars Riise with the Eight Iron on a club trip to Liverpool in the Algarve in 2007 to gather in 2007. For Welsh's team In 1993, the proof of the friendship created by Yorath, and the growing feeling that qualifies for the World Cup, is now a live option.

For most teams, their last chance was. Southall, Rush and Mark Hughes were not just three of Welsh's greatest players ever, but three of the best ever ever seen in the league in the UK. All three were in the thirties, such as Phillips, Mark Aizlewood, Eric Young, and Captain Barry Horne. Only 29 of them were Dean Saunders, Paul Bodin, Clayton Blackmore and Mark Bowen. "If it does not happen this time," Yorath warned in the week of the game: "We could fight to do it again and again."

Wales, the last line from left to right; Speed, Giggs, Aizlewood, Bowen, Hughes, medium row; Melville, Young, Norman, Southall, Roberts, Symons, Coleman; front row of Pembridge, Rush, Goss, Horne, Saunders and Phillips

Wales, the last line from left to right; Speed, Giggs, Aizlewood, Bowen, Hughes, medium row; Melville, Young, Norman, Southall, Roberts, Symons, Coleman; front row of Pembridge, Rush, Goss, Horne, Saunders and PhillipsGetty Images

The multi-purpose Welsh FA, which lasted in cash, promised a bonus package for millions of pounds for players if they were placed in the United States; In all qualifications, they were only at the 200-euro event. It was estimated that FAW had already bought £ 2 million in qualifi- cations, and could potentially sell another £ 4-5 million in sponsorship if Wales did it. With all the money they fly, it is FAW's decision not to surrender some of them to a man who has orchestrated the repetition of his football, which was very confusing.

Jorath's management contract should be held in the morning after the Romanian game and, against Yorath, FAW Secretary Alun Evans decided to wait and check whether Wales qualified before discussing the extension. "We did not want to be the last leader of Wales, Mike England, because we thought that we would just go back to the square," Rush said during the construction. "Now, under Terry, we believe that we have reached a certain height, and if Wales got rid of him, they would return again."

" Players and I have the responsibility to do Welsh football, which nobody else could do"

It was a lot to play in Cardiff, and the potential consequences of Wales' victory far exceeded only qualifications for the World Cup. In Yorath's eyes, a summer trip to the United States was compared to what might have been a victory over Romania – inspired a new generation of players who could re-shape football in Wales. "Players and I have the responsibility to work for the football world, which nobody else could do," he said. "If I grab it by the roots and start pulling it, it seems to me that this is all and to end all the match."

The Welsh team was a wide-grown, talented and experienced church, from attacking the players in the best clubs of the Premier League to the defenders who played in the 1st Division. Yorath had about 25 players who could really choose an international team and regularly circulated letters for 92 league clubs in England and Wales to determine whether new Welsh players were available in the books.

UEFA then arranged Welsh players as foreigners for English clubs in European competitions, which jeopardized another way to find the highest level experience for Yorath. The implementation of alchemy with such limited resources could not be planned in the long term. In the week of the Romanian game, Yorath has put into the state of development structure, playing style and ways of training for young players in both Wales and England. It was a kind of rhetoric that was usually heard in a country that has not yet qualified and not on one side that is on the verge of it. The idea that the long-term health of the football world is in the game in Cardiff added a sense of threat to the game as it approached the game.

Matching program

If Wales wins, we should do it without one of the best players. Hughes took the unnecessary late booking for a poor timing, while Wales led against Cyprus in the previous game; this was his second qualifier tournament and he eliminated him from the final game. With Saunders and Rush, who took advantage of Wales's preference, Hughes made a convenient return to the center for the team. Also suspended was Aizlewood, a lynchpin of three giant middle necks. Yorath's rejigged team was Southall's goal; Phillips, Bodin, Young, Kit Symons and Andy Melville as the last five; Horne, Gary Speed ​​and Giggs are in the middle of the middle; Saunders and Rush were at the front.

Each seat in the weapon park was full, with the atmosphere at the stadium being the amalgam of the anticipated and burning. It was incredible dungeon, because the closure of the nuclear terraces lying in the east, due to the Uefe regulations, meant that only three sides of the floor were used. The judge was Swiss Kurt Röthlisberger, who would be banned in a few years to live for participation in the fixing of matches. Two weeks earlier, he visited Manhattan "Welcome to hell" in Galatasaray in the Champions League and sent Eric Canton to the back flute. After the rising national anthem, the great actors soon came to their heels on Romanian footballers.

3. The Hagi and the genius of Romania

Gheorghe Hagi goes to the national anthem in Cardiff

Gheorghe Hagi goes to the national anthem in CardiffGetty Images

"Just before the start of the club, Peter Shreeves (assistant Yoratha) said:" Go there and see the player against whom you are against, and all the players in your team. "" Horne later told BBC Sport. "" Ask yourself if they are good enough not to leave you to the finals of the World Cup. "" Although Welsh players came out with the belief that they were running through their veins, the class of their opponents was rapidly apparent.

Romania had a large number of players who were dressed with both legs and absurdly comfortable in possession of the ball. Dan Petrescu on the right, Gica Popescu sweeping and forward Ilie Dumitrescu and Florin Răducioiu would all get acquainted with the British audience when they joined the Premier League in the late 1990s. In Cardiff they were part of the unit, which was a wonderful attack on the senses. Despite the bedlam every time Wales went on, they gathered for the first twenty minutes on a counter with a brutal glow. Petrescu blew the ball in the 11th minute, and Dumitrescu headed for Simons and Young, then the ball bounced through the crossbar.

Original match card

Original match cardEurosport

The rhythmic events of the property, which soon settled down the Romans, were particularly impressive, given the state of the Arms Park ski pole. Not only was the Welsh rugby team interrupted a week before, it was still heavily strained in the cities after the stadium hosted the battle between Lennox Lewis and Franco Bruno in October. At the end of the open Wales training two days before the game, several hundred fans surrounded Welsh players for autographs, with a great and exciting mass around Giggs. Yorath was forced to make a rough request to get out of the court.

A Roma genius who dictated things in Cardiff. Before the match, Wales's player Jeremy Goss said that Hagi could be "God when it comes to football in his country, but the first impressions are that he is a little overweight." Like mistaken mistakes, it was at the same level as the legendary quote from a defeat of 6-3 in England, which was in the hands of Hungary in 1953, when the unnamed actor in England referred to Ferenc Puskas as "this little fat hat". In the night, the Hagi was sensational, just like it was in Bucharest eighteen months ago. It seems unbelievable that he is now thinking that Hagi would be someone who would play with Real Madrid and Barcelona in the years before and after this match while in the B series with Brescia.

In the first half of the year, as Barry Davies wrote in the BBC's commentary, Hagi found a space to descend and shoot with an alarming ease. "I really made a mistake," Yorath later said. "Before the match, I wanted to tell the players that when he crossed to the right, Hagi wanted to get on his left leg." However, they should probably be more aware; The Hagi stopped in Bucharest, from where he was thirty meters away from the cross by Southall. At 32 minutes in Cardiff, Hagi cut Barry Horne from the right winger and designed for shooting.

"I'm better than I was 10 years ago," said 35-year-old Southall before the game. "Why is this a big thing about age? You can not run over your head, no matter how old you are." Southall's talent was one aspect of his size; the other, the temperament was laid horizontally back. After breaking the keys to the car last week, he opened a police escort to drive him to a 100 km / h racing car. When in the early game, almost paid to Popescu, he refused and bounced back the ball, a street beam that gleamed as a beam was giggling.


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When Hagi unloaded his shot at 25 meters, the trouble suddenly became very real. This narrowed down through the penalty area, and Southall was wrongly judging the pace when he fell to suffocate the shot just to the left. Early seconds a second was dropped, and the ball was under his dive and into the net. It was a terrible mistake. If Southall's efforts for Everton were not so exceptional, I might even have defined my entire career.

The goal temporarily sucked the atmosphere immediately from the stadium. Romania almost doubled the lead almost six minutes later when Dumitrescu was placed on the goal. He tried to go around Southall, who managed to partially redeem his previous mistake by pulling the ball out of Dumitrescu's legs. Wales fought against the pace and movement of the Romans. Giggs came into the skirt only once in the first half, the electric cross-section down on the right and the cross that Phillips missed. All the best parts of Wales in the first half came from crosses. Rush drove one head across the bar with his hand, and the young man flipped Florin Prunea one of the doors as he approached the ball. In extra time, Wales's best chance is that half came when Melville's head from Giggs's corner was moved from the line.

The competition in the second half of the year should be over. Ioan Sabău's midfielder Ioan Sabău walked through the center of the Welsh team, which ended with a 25-meter, chipped 25-foot chip, with Southall's rook when he was swimming across the bar. At the center, Wales was wrecks of water everywhere. Horne was booked when Ioan Lupescu was compensated for by an outrageous doll. Yorath removed Symons from defense and introduced Gossa in the middle, switched Wales's formation to 4-4-2. Hagi then glistened a magnificent opportunity when he ran through a straight to a redirect extension and wrongly crossed a simple volleyball with his weak right leg. Two minutes later, it seemed that it might have been an expensive delay; From scratch, Wales pulled the level.

4. Hope and then a disaster

Paul Bodin challenges Gheorghe Hagi

Paul Bodin challenges Gheorghe HagiGetty Images

Giggs came from the free kick to the Romanian side on the right. It squeezed around the head of Saunders, Young and then Speed, which kicked him on the goal. Saunders waited from a single yard to move the volley into the net and reached 1-1. An unusual moment was a mixture of relief, triumph, and anticipation. In Brussels, the game between Belgium and RCS was locked at 0-0. With less than half an hour, another Welsh goal could be sent to the finals of the World Cup.

On certain occasions, a plethora of wills can completely rotate the game from its axis. After almost complete control of the match, the Roma suddenly rocked. Less than a minute after the hit Saunders Goss took the ball on the right edge and headed for Romania, supported by supporters who fought for the next goal. Goss triggered a low intersection into a field that Gary Speed ​​was wrongly controlling with the heel. Touching him inadvertently brought him around Popescu, but the ball went to Prune. Speed ​​and Petrescu barely moved and Speed ​​went down. Amazingly, Röthlisberger was fined.

What could be: how Ceefax could look if Wales wins

What could be: how Ceefax could look if Wales winsEurosport

Petrescu was embarrassed, even though he was in a minority. If we were to say that the stadium broke out, it would be a treacherous way, on the pitch, Saunders jumped, just as the penalty itself was assigned to the goal. It was ridiculously soft in the replay, but it was a little bit of an interest in the weapons park. After the World Cup dreams, in the years 1977 and 1985, it seemed that karma had finally settled a bill with a big football.

At the beginning of the competition, fans in Welsh sang "Are you watching England?" They are extorting their neighbors who were in Bologna and trying to hit San Marino and rely on other incredible results to come to America. As Paul Bodin prepared for a penalty for Wales, England suddenly noticed; The BBC redirected its coverage from events in Bologna to Cardiff as soon as the penalty was awarded, an increase in the television audience by more than 10 million and the drawing of 34,000 complaints within five minutes.

" When Wales was sentenced, I thought we were done"

While these misanthropes were reached by telephone, Prunea kissed the ball in Cardiff and handed him over to Bodin. When he put it on the spot, Bodin hit the ball on the ground to bite it with happiness and then retreated to the edge of the area. Wales perceived that the Romanians were suddenly blowing. "Their morale had collapsed," in his autobiography, wrote a two-month frenzy around the equalizer and punishment. "I saw from their body they did not want to know."

Dumitrescu confirmed this suspicion in a BBC Radio Wales documentary in 2013. "When Wales was sentenced I thought we were done," he said. "Due to the way the game was running, there are some good opportunities, I thought that our opportunity was being transferred and now it was a great opportunity to go to the World Cup."

Only Dumitrescu will know whether this statement was entrusted with a retrospective generosity. On the night alone, the sudden moment of happiness in favor of Wales made everything a grab. If Bodin could reach it, then he felt that the momentum itself would take care of the guardian himself for the last 27 minutes and put Wales on, but with such a pig, he sent a penalty to the cross that he returned to the earth five meters outside the Romanian area.

"Such an opportunity can not be canceled!" Davies drew attention to the comment. "It's so cruel, it needs to be taken, but it was not!"

5. The end of the world

Romania celebrates at the end of the game

Romania celebrates at the end of the gameGetty Images

The crowd increased voice support for players who fought against the gamel. Giggs threw a long range shot across a wide courtyard, while Rush and Saunders had noisy shots choked by Prunea; Malcolm Allen, Newcastle forward, replaced unhappy Bodin. The game was now extremely unpredictable, and the atmosphere is increasingly desperate on the pitch and outside the playground for Wales; there was little time for anyone to breathe, let alone hand over the huge opportunity that she asked for in the 63rd minute.

With the dead unavoidable for Wales, the Romans gradually moved their balance. They created three clean looks in Southall and Welsh's hair. The extraordinary excellent Dumitrescu and Răducioiu missed effortlessly when they scored, while Sabau lost excellent points, except for Southall. In the 82nd minute, Wales finally cracked. Dumitrescu withdrew from Gossa and sent a ball to Răducioiu, who touched it before turning a low shot through Southall's legs to score 2-1. Every hope immediately left the stadium. Now only the celebrations of the small pocket of Romanian fans can be heard.

Wales created another opportunity where Giggs failed to get enough money to shoot a diagonal ball from Horne, but it was so far too late. Romania qualified for the World Cup and Wales is no longer. Belgium scored 0-0 with RCS; Every victory in Wales would be enough. Defeat was an exciting blow for this generation of Welsh players. The campaign, which seemed to end the Atlantic crossing for the World Cup, flew suddenly in the following year.

" The players cried their eyes"

"The wardrobe was full of tears," Yorath reported to reporters after the match. "The players cried their eyes. Neville was big enough to admit he had made a mistake, and if it was a penalty, who knows, football is tough." Southall offered to stop after the game. As bad as his mistake, the first half felt like life. There was no doubt about the moment in which the game would resonate. "I remember coming and looking around the wardrobe, I saw all the faces of the boys," Bodin later recalled. "Everyone said it was not my fault, but it was like the end of the world."

The loss of the football game was soon put into perspective for everyone in Cardiff. At the end of the game, two enthusiastic Welsh left the sea troubles floating around the playground and the north stand. He hit John Hill, retired postman Merthyr Tydfil, and immediately killed him. "With many of my teammates, I attended his funeral," Southall said Binman chronicles. "It was a terrible day and the one who brought home again, that there is no football tragedy when it comes to human life." Both fans were imprisoned three years after the murder took place.

6. Drop in and dirty war

Terry Yorath on the edge of Wales

Terry Yorath on the edge of WalesImago

Morning after the match, Yorath's contract expired correctly. He marked FAW's failure to even discuss it with "scandalous". England, Scotland and Northern Ireland also went on to win all the British teams that did not qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever since qualifying in 1950. The investigation into how football was organized and trained on these islands soon began Seriously. Yorath shot a line in the English rebranded top division because he did not reduce the number of games he had promised and improved the standards. "Instead, we have the Thatcherite Premier League," he told reporters, "where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. They only pamper the greed, and I'm afraid it has found us."

Romania revealed what was due to its high energy and passion was limited to the Welsh game plan. After the match, a Romanian journalist asked Yorath if Wales had ever moved past and ran to football, while Răducioiu suggested that Giggs move abroad rather than see his talent that he lost in the storm of the Premier League. "You play one dimension to get the ball as fast as you can," he said, "but sometimes the game requires patience to move the ball on the side to create a space." Yorath would not be around to try to develop such a style for Wales. In overcoming the team and the fans, FAW refused to renew the contract. It's rumored that Yorath's request for an additional £ 30 a week.

" Torn his ass out of us"

The Welsh team dropped almost as fast as they rose to the fore. John Toshack took over from part-time Yorath, joining the role of manager Wales on his daily work with Real Sociedad. For his first match against Norway in March 1994 he made such a good impression as David Brent when he first encountered Swindon's Office. "I remember coming to the hotel," Phillips tells Eurosport, "he says," Hey Rushie, hi nev. As for the others, I do not know who you are. "I immediately returned to my back. I thought that at least we would do a little more investigation before selecting a few big attackers."

Wales lost 3-1 in both halftime and full time. The crowd also called Yorath's name during the game. Toshack quit his new role after just 47 days, citing a "dirty war" around the Welsh international set-up as his reason. His assistant Mike Smith, who had managed Wales in the 1970s and coached Egypt to win the African Cup of Nations in 1986, took over. But the momentum had gone, and by the end of 1994 Wales had gone completely. They were well beaten in their first three qualifiers for the 1996 European Championship by Moldova, Georgia and Bulgaria. The five-nil defeat to the Georgians in Tbilisi in November was spectacularly low ebb given where they were just 12 months earlier. "We just turned up expecting to win," said Speed ​​in 2003, "and they tear the arse out of us."

7. What Could Have Been

Romania celebrate their win in Cardiff

Romania celebrate their win in CardiffGetty Images

The victors in Cardiff spent the summer of 1994 tearing it up at the World Cup. Romania were the best attacking team in the United States, with Hagi, Dumitrescu and Răducioiu scoring nine goals between them in five games. They took one surprise 4-1 hammering from Switzerland in the group stages but won two World Cup classics either side of it; their 3-1 and 3-2 victories over Colombia and Argentina respectively cemented their place in history as one of the great cult sides in the history of the tournament. Only a surprising defeat on penalties to Sweden in a quarter-final that they should have won stopped their progress. "That defeat will hurt forever," Hagi told FourFourTwo in 2014, "because the saddest thing is to lose like that."

Back in Wales they know Hagi’s pain. "As soon as we got the penalty I thought: 'This is it, we're going through,”’ Yorath said in 2013. "I remember looking at it and 10 minutes before the penalty and thinking: ‘Paul's not playing very well, I'll bring him off, put Gary Speed at left-back and bring another attacker on.’" A school of thought has developed since that, with the likes of Rush and Saunders present, Bodin shouldn’t have been the one given the responsibility in any case.

That conveniently overlooks the fact that he was Wales’ designated taker and had scored a perfect three out of three in internationals. Six months earlier Bodin had also scored a late penalty in the First Division play-off final for Swindon Town to secure a 4-3 win over Leicester City. Nor was the nature of his strike evidence of nerves or self-doubt; hitting a penalty with force had always been his technique, rather than a panic-induced strategy that some people choose to believe he opted for in Cardiff.

" I am sick and tired of people blaming Paul Bodin"

Speed housed regrets that Bodin had to step up and take it at all. "What I’ve always wondered is what would have happened had I stayed on my feet?" he later said. "Would I have scored if I hadn’t gone down?" It’s highly unlikely that Speed would have made it to the ball before Prunea; the belief that he might have is indicative of spirit within a squad that didn’t want Bodin to shoulder the burden alone. "I am sick and tired of people blaming Paul Bodin for the defeat," Southall said in 2013, "because they are totally wrong. I should have saved that first goal. If I could have come off then, I would have done."

What could have been: How Neville Southall might have looked at the World Cup

What could have been: How Neville Southall might have looked at the World CupEurosport

Inevitably though, Bodin’s missed penalty has come to define that match and his life since. It says much about his willpower that he smashed in a late penalty for Swindon to secure a 2-2 draw with Ipswich Town just three days later. He has since recreated the miss in Cardiff for the S4C football show Sgorio, signed pictures of the incident for fans and chats freely about the incident whenever he’s asked. But for all the coping strategies, it still burns; not only on a personal level, but because of what it meant for everyone. "It was more the sense of loss," he told Wales Online in 2015, "it was such a big opportunity and that crop of players never went that close again. Deep down I knew that was my chance to go to a World Cup gone."

In this he’s not alone. Southall, Saunders and Speed all spoke of how the defeat stayed with them. Giggs, still a teenager in 1993, just assumed he’d get another look eventually. "I was completely gutted by the defeat," he said. "But I was young and was sure there would be other World Cups. This had just been my first shot at it." It would be the closest; Giggs retired from international football in 2009 without ever having played at a major tournament. His later inclusion in the Great Britain squad for the 2012 football competition at the London Olympics was hardly the international adornment that befitted his career.

7. Regeneration?

Ryan Giggs in the match against Romania

Ryan Giggs in the match against RomaniaGetty Images

Giggs is now the Wales manager and, if he can build on a reasonable start, will likely be in charge to try and finally take Wales back to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Earlier this year he inherited from Chris Coleman a squad that went on a remarkable run to the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championship in France. It was Wales’ first appearance at a major tournament in 58 years. The expansion of the championship to 24 teams had offered a rare opportunity for the traditionally lower ranked teams in Europe to make history.

For Welsh fans over the age of 30, the summer of 2016 went some way to easing the pain of the memory of that defeat to Romania. In the ITV studio after the 3-1 quarter-final victory over Belgium in Lille, Giggs said: "It’s quite simply the greatest night in the history of Welsh football." Even in the hyperbolic afterglow of a momentous victory, Giggs was one person who could be relied upon to identify such extremes; 23 years earlier, he’d played in its most heart-breaking.

Michael Gibbons is a freelance football writer. He is the author of When Football Came Home: England the English and Euro 96 and the co-author of Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football's Greatest Cult Team.


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