Dust off that old Feeder LP and crack open a bottle of Brains, folks, because Wales are going to the Human Rights World Cup! Ending a 64-year wait to take part in Fifa’s lucrative jamboree was never going to be easy against an extraordinary Ukraine team and the seething mass of fans in red were grateful to not one, but two 32-year-old talismanic captains for taking them to Qatar. Poor Andriy Yarmolenko. He deserved better than the ignominy of giving Gareth Bale’s dipping free-kick a Sandy Brown-style finish. Still, that he and his teammates were playing at all was an incredible achievement in itself – and to be the slicker side for large parts of the match was testament to the kind of talent and resolve The Fiver could only ever dream of possessing.
It was a heady afternoon at the Cardiff City Stadium that began with folk legend Dafydd Iwan leading a raucous rendition of Yma o Hyd and ended with Wales players standing en masse to applaud the fans of Ukraine who still don’t know if their country will play another game of football, while Russia continues its barbaric assault on their homeland. The headlines centred on Bale after the match, but had it not been for Wayne Hennessey and Ben Davies taking turns playing Pong with every Ukraine strike on goal, the Wales captain would already be 18 holes into his retirement.
A giddy Bale, who roared that the victory was “the greatest result in the history of Welsh football” [Mickey Thomas may disagree – Fiver Ed], will now have to choose which club’s physios get the chance to keep him fit enough to play at the HRWC in November and December. “I’ve got loads [of offers],” beamed Bale, who stomped around for 83 minutes despite being hampered by back spasm-knack. According to red-hot piffle in the tabloids, Cardiff City are among those lining up for the free agent’s signature. We’re not sure how much use Bale would be to the Bluebirds in a relegation six-pointer against Rotherham but, hey, the shirt sales would be off the scale. Isn’t that right, Vincent?
Wales join England, Iran and USA! USA!! USA!!! in Qatar. It’s not the most daunting of groups for them, is it? They outperformed England in the 1958 World Cup. A goal by Pelé in the quarter-finals secured a 1-0 win for eventual champions Brazil against a side spearheaded by the great John Charles. A similar performance in Qatar is not beyond a side that is chock full of spirit. Perhaps they could give Iwan a job as official Vibes Man. But the last word should be reserved for Ukraine. Had they qualified, it would have guaranteed media attention was drawn back to the war at a time when it is slipping down the agenda at many news organisations. “We just want your support,” pleaded head coach Oleksandr Petrakov. “We just want you to understand what is happening back at home.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The trespassers’ ability to efficiently break down newly-installed fencing with specific tools, before accessing the grounds team’s garage and recently-installed roof lighting control system, suggests that the intruders had a solid operational knowledge of Home Park, and the club will be lending its full support to the police in an attempt to see these individuals identified and punished accordingly” – Plymouth Argyle reveal significant damage was caused to their pitch after a tractor was driven across it following a break-in.
“Why do I no longer get The Fiver sent to my email? Has it finished” – Allan Bennett [afraid not, just the long UK Bank Holiday – Fiver Ed].
“I am all for biopics based on books and certainly don’t think they are solely for people that are too lazy to read and need everything literally spoon-fed to them in the form of a drama as they can’t cope with reality. However, it would have been useful if the makers of this new Zlatan Ibrahimovic film had actually spoken to him or even just caught a photo of what he looks like before they made it. If it hadn’t constantly said ‘Zlatan’ in the trailer and had ‘Ibrahimovic’ on the back of the shirt, I wouldn’t have even guessed it was about him” – Noble Francis [Tim Roth as Blatter still the lowest point in football-related movies? – Fiver Ed].
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Noble Francis.
Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly, featuring a tearful Elis James. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
After his team were booed for taking the knee by a Hungary crowd comprised mainly of children, Gareth Southgate has warned England fans not to embarrass themselves before Tuesday’s Nations League match against Germany in Munich. “We can only give the correct messages, then you’ve got to rely on people behaving themselves,” he sighed.
There’s always a bonus row in the lead-up to a major tournament and Canada have stepped up, going on strike and forcing Sunday’s friendly with Panama to be cancelled. “Canada Soccer has disrespected our team and jeopardised our efforts to raise the standards and effectively advance the game,” sniffed a team statement.
Lionel Messi 5-0 Estonia.
Despite offers from elsewhere in the Premier League and abroad, James Milner has chosen to take a pay cut and stay at Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have won the league.
After promising to cycle the 450km Camino de Santiago if his Real Valladolid got promoted back to La Liga, the real Ronaldo has had to get on his bike. “It will be beautiful,” he cooed, setting off for Santiago de Compostela. “I know that I will suffer physically but it will be an unforgettable experience.”
Grimsby Town are back in the Football League, baby, after a win over Solihull Moors – their third extra-time victory in three National League playoff games.
Alabama-based investment firm Trivela, whose name sounds like it was conceived on a footballing version of The Apprentice, have bought the controlling stake of Walsall, with founder Benjamin Boycott becoming co-chairman.
And Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley has taken the job his name was destined for, moving south to … Hartlepool.
STILL WANT MORE?
Our men’s and women’s transfer interactives are up and running for the summer.
Floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson on Gareth Bale and, while he’s here, Robert Lewandowski too.
Dan Sabbagh was in Kyiv to watch Ukraine’s near-miss with their fans.
Golden Goal returns with Daniel Harris remembering that Roberto Carlos banana in Le Tournoi, 25 years on.
This is lovely: Ben Fisher catches up with Anthony Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James Oatway.
Ronan Evain explains why France’s twisted attitude to fans led to chaos in Paris.
Another year, another Sids!
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