I hold one person solely responsible for the defeat in Rome: me. I foolishly departed from the highly successful strategy that has worked so well in the last few years – go off grid, sever all connections to the outside world, disappear down to Splott Beach with a pack of sandwiches and a pair of binoculars – and instead actually watched the match live. That’s a mistake I won’t be making again! Lip-reading the instructions of Rob Page from the touchline as the game kicked off, I’m sure he said “Dic Mortimer has just turned on his telly, make sure you are totally out-classed to really upset him”. Or perhaps it was just “Don’t sit so deep, high press, close down and hunt in packs!”
Luckily, the instant Ethan Ampadu was sent off by ridiculous Romanian ref Ovidiu Hategan (Oh, you can say that again!) I had the wherewithal to grab my jacket, flounce out of the house and power-waddle as fast as I could to Splott Park. There was nobody around apart from three surly boys with bikes smoking spliffs (young people today, honestly!) and under the slate-grey skies and occasional drops of refreshing summer rain I found an isolated bench by the railway embankment where I could grind out what remained of the match in blissful ignorance. Around this point in time Page would probably have been shouting “He’s not watching any more, give the performance of your lives and get us into the knock-out phase!” It worked a dream. Of course.
Next up are Denmark in Amsterdam on Saturday in the last 16. With a head-to-head record against the Danes of P10, W4, D0, L6, Goals F9-A12, and a world ranking of 17th compared to Denmark’s 10th, Wales will start as unfancied outsiders. Denmark have the momentum of their 4-1 thrashing of Russia, the motivation generated by all the excessive Eriksen emoting and the advantage of Welsh supporters being barred from the Amsterdam Arena (one more example of how being part of the toxic UK is a liability). Yes, we will be in our traditional, time-worn, comfortably familiar position of bit-part underdogs – just the way we like it!
I’m now in a win-win situation. If, as I fully expect, we are defeated, it’s still been a fantastic achievement to be the country with both the smallest population and the weakest domestic game to get this far, while the habit of qualifying has become further entrenched and the FAW have had another vital injection of money. And if, by some Gareth-given miracle, we win and go through to the quarter finals…hey, let’s not go there, it’s the hope that kills…
Let’s look at it this way. Denmark has 6 million people and 30 million pigs. Wales has 3 million people and 9 million sheep. We occupy the moral high ground! Denmark’s highest point is 170m (560ft). Wales’ highest point is 1,085m (3,560ft). We occupy the geographical high ground too!