Intermediate Teams - 2017 in Review
International
21 December 2017

Intermediate Teams - 2017 in Review

Rob Page was offered an early indication of what to expect as the new intermediate team manager as Wales competed at the Toulon tournament for the first time during the summer.

Following his appointment earlier in the year, Page had his first opportunity to see the majority of his senior players in action, and they did not disappoint as his side remained undefeated throughout the course of the competition. 

A 0-0 draw against France was followed with a 1-0 victory over Bahrain as Daniel James scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.

A brace from George Thomas then earned the side a 2-2 draw against Ivory Coast which left Page happy to reflect on a positive couple of weeks. “I’m really proud of the players,” he said. “They have improved in every game we’ve played, and they have done everything we’ve asked of them each time they stepped onto the field. We can hold our heads high leaving the tournament and I was proud to be their manager on the touchline.” 

Tyler Roberts in action for Wales against France at the Toulon Tournament
Tyler Roberts in action for Wales against France at the Toulon Tournament

Attentions quickly turned to the start of the 2019 UEFA Under-21 qualifying campaign, and Page remained encouraged with two victories from his opening three away games.

The Group 8 qualifying action started for Wales back in September, and Page's side made an immediate impression on their rivals with a 3-0 win away to Switzerland through goals from Tyler Roberts, David Brooks and George Thomas. “We were excellent,” enthused Page as he reflected on the convincing victory.“We showed all of our qualities there and we showed why we're contenders to get through this group. Now we need to build on that.”

A 2-0 defeat to an impressive Portugal side in Chaves a few days later dented their progress, but they made amends with a 3-1 victory in Liechtenstein.Matthew Smith scoring the third goal to add to a George Thomas brace.

However, the side would only take one point from their next two home games, as a heavy 4-0 reverse against Bosnia and Herzegovina was followed by a 0-0 draw against Romania in Bangor.

It proved to be a frustrating double-header for Page, but the manager was encouraged by the reaction to the opening defeat, and the side must now show that same character when the qualifiers resume against Bosnia and Herzegovina in March.

Wales have never qualified for the finals of the UEFA Under-21 tournament, but were narrowly edged out of a place back in 2009.

Rivals England were the play-off opponents for Brian Flynn's side back then, but a 5-4 aggregate victory ensured that England would head to Sweden at Wales' expense. England subsequently went through to the final, but suffered a 4-0 defeat to Germany.

The Women's Under-17 side began the year by competing in the UEFA Elite round of qualifiers in March, but their campaign started with a heavy 8-1 defeat to Norway in Sarajevo.

It was a step learning curve for the side following their progression from the opening qualifying round, but they regrouped for the second game and put in a spirited performance despite slipping to a 2-0 reverse against Denmark.

However, the campaign would end on a high as a solitary goal from Payton Vincze was enough to defeat hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina, but was not enough for the side to progress to the finals in the Czech Republic.

The Wales Women's Under-19 side registered a resounding 6-0 win over host nation Kazakhstan in their final UEFA qualifier back in October, and with it booked their place in the Elite round of fixtures that will take place early next year.

After making the long journey to Kazakhstan, the side coached by Kathryn Lovett started the campaign with a creditable 0-0 draw against Slovenia, but slipped to a 4-0 defeat to England a few days later. 

However, the side regrouped to comfortably beat the hosts in the final game, and with it qualified for the UEFA Elite round as one of the best third-place teams in the competition.

Daisy Evan-Watkins and Cassia Pike scored a brace in the resounding and decisive victory, with Pike denied a hat-trick as she failed to convert from the spot. However, further goals from Gwennan Davies and penalty from Ella Powell ensured the side claimed the desired return to progress.

The side will now look to repeat their achievement and move a step closer to the finals that will be played in Switzerland next year when they compete in the Elite round.

The draw for the next stage of the qualifying competition took place in November, and Wales have been drawn in Group 6 together with Denmark, Serbia and host nation Portugal. The matches are scheduled to take place between 2nd and 10th April, and while the challenge will be difficult, it represents another key step in the progress and development of the women's game in Wales. 

The Women's Under-17 did not fare as well in Denmark back in September as their campaign started with a 2-0 defeat to the hosts, and the result was followed by a 4-0 reverse against France. Despite the setback, the group ended the campaign on a high with a convincing 8-0 win over Kazakhstan, but it was not enough to take them through to the Elite round. Elise Hughes helping herself to a hat-trick in the victory. 

Meanwhile, it proved to be a difficult campaign for the men's Under-19 side as they ended their qualifying campaign at the bottom of Group 13 with three defeats in November.

A 2-1 reverse to Slovakia was followed by a defeat to hosts Turkey by the same scoreline. The final match against Kazakhstan proved especially frustrating for Paul Bodin's team, as despite taking the lead through James Spruce, the side conceded three goals before Liam Cullen grabbed a consolation from the penalty spot in the final ten minutes, but it was not enough to inspire a comeback.

The men's Under-17 side headed to Hungary in October for their qualifying campaign, and opened with a 2-1 reverse to the host country.

A 2-0 win over newcomers Kosovo meant that the side remained in contention ahead of the final group game against the Netherlands, but a 4-0 defeat ended their tournament for another year.

Preparations will now begin in the new year for the next round of qualifiers, and with Intermediate team manager Rob Page keen to increase the contact time with each group, he will be looking for a more competitive year ahead from his young players.

Meanwhile, there have been plenty of positives for both the men's and women's Intermediate teams with the progression of a number of players into the respective senior squads.

Former national team manager Chris Coleman used his final games against France and Panama to give Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks their debuts, while Peyton Vincze has already featured for Jayne Ludlow's side in the current 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign.