All the fun of the farce

March 29 2007

Wales manager John ToshackLast night’s game was a strange one.

Wales quickly asserted their superiority, and within three minutes Jason Koumas reminded all those watching just how badly he had been missed against Ireland with a slide-rule pass down the inside right channel which Giggs calmly lofted over the keeper.

Toshack’s men completely dominated their stubbornly unadventurous opponents for the whole game, and Gareth Bale’s 20-yard curler midway through the first half was a beauty.

But the anticipated stuffing failed to materialise. A close-range lob from Giggs that looped up and over the bar just before half-time was testament to things to come in a second half which came perilously close to descending into complete farce.

The shameless playacting of the San Marino players was eclipsed only by a display of laziness and pettiness from the referee that had to be seen to be believed. Wales fully deserved to go three goals ahead, but the foul on David Cotterill that led to Koumas’s (comically fortunate) penalty took place a good two yards outside the box.

San Marino reacted to this setback by defending even deeper, and yet Wales’s uncertainty in attack meant they escaped further punishment. By this time every theatrical tumble from one of the opposition drew whoops of derision from the 19,000-strong home crowd, who were powerless to contain their mirth when the referee beckoned one of his linesmen onto the pitch to bring the wall back for a free kick on the Welsh right flank because he couldn’t be bothered to go over there himself.

So, three goals and three points. But the hilarity of the occasion – played out in front of 53,000 eerily empty seats – served only to illustrate just how far Wales have to go to regain credibility on the international stage.

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