It’s not pushing a point too hard to suggest Wales don’t have the greatest record at the World Cup. It’s 1958 – and that’s it. Having said that, they did get to the quarter-finals that year, and may well have won the whole thing had John Charles not been kicked out of the competition. Also, in the process, they scored the greatest goal in the entire history of the whole goddamn thing. Ivor Allchurch, boneddigion a boneddigesau, knocking Diego Maradona, Carlos Alberto, Maxi Rodríguez, Dennis Bergkamp, Esteban Cambiasso, Archie Gemmill, Saeed Al-Owairan, Michael Owen and Marco Tardelli into a jauntily-cocked hat.

Since then, the bread has always somehow landed toasted-cheese-with-a-healthy-spread-of-mustard-and-a-splash-of-Worcestershire-sauce side down for the Welsh, Joe Jordan, Paul Bodin, all that. However, 64 years of hurt could soon come to an end, with Wales just two games away from making it to the Ethics World Cup in Popularity’s Qatar this November. Austria provide the first hurdle to be cleared, tonight in Cardiff, and while the erstwhile wunderteam boast some fine talent in David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Marko Arnautovic, there are reasons to be optimistic. Aaron Ramsey is playing regular football again, sort of, at Ibrox, while Gareth Bale has got his handicap down to 3.1 and is really dialling in his short irons at the moment.

Even if Ramsey and Bale manage to add to their combined total of 56 international goals this evening and make it through, it’s not clear where or when or against whom they’ll play any final eliminator. Tonight’s victors are slated to face the winner of the tie between Scotland and Ukraine, which, well, y’know. But that’s a problem for another day/few months, so Wales are understandably concentrating on the task in front of them right now. “We can draw on past experiences that have hurt us,” says Bale, referencing the aforementioned Jordan and Bodin fiascos, plus the time he was two up with three holes to play against Harry Redknapp but couldn’t close it out. Here’s to Gareth getting the job done tonight, despite having played only six minutes of football in the last nine years. But if it doesn’t go to plan for Wales, at least, thanks to Ivor, they’ll always have Stockholm.


Join Scott Murray for piping hot MBM coverage of Wales 2-1 Austria, live on Big Website from 7.45pm GMT.


“The Welsh Parasite. Bloodsucker, Disappointment, Pain, Stars” – Somebody at Spanish news outlet Marca obviously didn’t have any breakfast this morning.

‘Stars’ are … oh yes … the four Big Cups Gareth Bale has won at Real?
‘Stars’ are … oh yes … the four Big Cups Gareth Bale has won at Real? Photograph: Marca


Elis James and Nedum Onuoha ‘star’ in our latest edition of Football Weekly Extra!


Not a school teacher but I grew up in Bath in the ‘50s and to be honest it was a bit of a non-league footballing vacuum. That didn’t stop us though. Our window cleaner by the name of Charlie Fleming had not only played for Scotland (from whence he earned the nickname ’Cannonball Charlie’) but on Saturdays played for Bath City in the Southern league. He was a pretty good window cleaner by all accounts. However he was not the most ‘famous’ player in the team. That accolade was given to our local lad Tony Book who followed our unknown manager, Malcolm Allison firstly to Plymouth Argyle and then onto Manchester City at the age of 31, where he only won the bloody league and European cup winner’s cup amongst other trophies. Local heroes, or what!” – Nigel Sanders.

“I was interested to read Steve Beaton was able to obtain an O level in British Constitution given that Britain famously does not have a constitution – can I assume that a certain West London club will shortly be sitting for its GCSE in Football Integrity?” – Bryan Paisley.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Nigel Sanders.


Jermain Defoe has announced his retirement from the game aged 39. “I have had an incredible journey and have met some amazing people in the game … it gives me great pride and satisfaction to look back on the blessed career that I’ve had,” he gushed.

Boris Johnson has described Russia’s attempted Euro 2028 bid as ‘beyond satire’ before suggesting Ukraine could host it instead, and seemingly forgetting that his own country was bidding. Russia meanwhile could face more sanctions if they do press ahead with a bid.

Ada Hegerberg is back, baby, for Norway, five years after quitting international football, and will be available for this summer’s Euros in England. ‘I took a decision in 2017 that I stood by,’ the Lyon striker said on Thursday, ‘But I had a lot of time to reflect over the past two years, on many aspects. I am very glad to be able to come back with the team and get a new story started.’

Oh yes.
Oh yes. Photograph: Lyubomir Domozetski/SPP/Shutterstock

And last night in Women’s Big Cup, Hegerberg’s Lyon were beaten 2-1 at Juventus and Arsenal drew 1-1 with Wolfsburg in their quarter-final first legs.

The Socceroos’ hopes of Human Rights World Cup qualification are still in the balance after a flamin’ 0-2 defeat by Japan, whose victory sealed their own place in Qatar.


It’s Barney Ronay on Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

Just 46 days after the Afcon final, Egypt and Senegal – and Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané – will battle for a place at the World Cup. Ed Aarons reports.

The former Manchester United player and now Barcelona sporting advisor, Jordi Cruyff, tells Sid Lowe why he thinks the club have turned a corner.

The FA intends to shine a light on human rights concerns surrounding Qatar. Nicholas McGeehan says they much speak up on compensation for those affected.

‘Biggest week of our lives’: Tom Dart looks forward to the USA! USA!! USA!!!’s trip to Mexico and a date with World Cup destiny.

Moving the goalposts
Sign up to our new women’s football newsletter

The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You probably don’t need to be told that it’s going to be smarter and wittier than us – so you had better sign up here. The first edition will come whistling into your inboxes on Wednesday 30 March.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!



Scott Murray

The GuardianTramp

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