It has been a positive year for the Cymru intermediate teams with men's Under-17 side qualifying for the UEFA Elite round and the women's Under-19 side achieving promotion to League A.
Meanwhile, Paul Bodin's Under-21 side recorded their biggest-ever competitive victory in November as Gibraltar were defeated 7-0 in UEFA U21 EURO qualifying. However, the currently sit fourth in Group E with four games remaining in the campaign. Here's a look back at how all of the Cymru intermediate teams performed over the course of the last year and what we can look forward to in 2022.
MEN'S U21 TEAM
The year began for the Cymru U21 squad in March as Paul Bodin's new-look squad began their preparations for the new qualifying campaign with a friendly against the Republic of Ireland at Colliers Park. Despite the 2-1 defeat, the introduction of a number of new players offered optimism for the opening Group E match against Moldova at Llanelli in June, but the side were held to a 0-0 draw with Sion Spence shown red in controversial circumstances on what was a frustrating night.
Jack Vale was the hat-trick hero in Sofia when the side returned to action in September as the Blackburn Rovers striker scored three in a 4-0 win over Bulgaria, with Billy Sass-Davies also on target. “The boys fully deserved the win,” said Bodin after the match. “We had a little bit of luck at the start but from that point on I thought we dominated the game. Jack Vale was incredible with the perfect hat trick and his performance. I've had a great squad involved in this camp and it's been capped with a fantastic win and four wonderful goals.”
A difficult October saw the side suffer a surprise 1-0 defeat away to Moldova, and a few days later they conceded five without reply against the Netherlands in Nijmegen. Despite the setback to their qualifying ambitions, the side responded in style in November as Owen Beck, Luke Jephcott, Dan Williams, Terry Taylor, Ryan Astley and a brace from Joe Adams earned the side a 7-0 win over Gibraltar. However, a narrow 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in Newport made it a frustrating end to the year, but the improvement in the performance against the group leaders offers hope ahead of the return match against Switzerland in March.
MEN'S U19 TEAM
Rob Edwards' side played just one match throughout 2020, and returned to action in September 2021 as they took part in a mini-tournament in Croatia against Turkey, Austria and the hosts in preparation for their UEFA U19 EURO qualifying campaign. A 2-0 defeat to Croatia was followed by a 3-2 reverse against Austria, but the tournament ended on a relative high as the side played out a 2-2 against Turkey.
Cymru headed to Norway for their Group 10 qualifying campaign and began the competition with a 0-0 draw against eventual group winners Georgia in Lavirk. However, a 5-0 defeat against host nation Norway in the second game ended their hopes of qualifying for the Elite round. The qualifying campaign would end on a high as goals from Luke Harris and a double strike from Caleb Hughes, the first from the penalty spot, earned Cymru a convincing 3-0 win over Kosovo.
MEN'S U18 TEAM
Following the appointment of former Cymru international Matty Jones, the U18 team returned to play their first game at this level since October 2000 as England visited the Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff back in March. England won 2-0 through goals from Liam Delap and Carney Chukwuemeka but there were plenty of positives for Jones take into their next match as England once again provided the opposition in September. Luke Harris opened the scoring in Newport, but Rico Lewis levelled for the visitors as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
MEN'S U17 TEAM
The Cymru U17 did not kick a ball in 2020, but returned to action with two friendlies against Scotland in September, drawing 1-1 in the opening match before claiming a 4-3 victory. Richard Williams' side headed for Portugal in November and made an impressive start with a 3-1 win over Ukraine through goals from captain Luke Harris, Alex Roberts and substitute Cole Fleming. A 2-0 defeat against Portugal followed a few days later, but a goal from Omari Benjamin earned Cymru a point against Kazakhstan in their final game, with qualification for the Elite round later confirmed.
“Winning the first game in these tournaments is key,” said Williams. “It means it’s all to play for up until the final match. It was great for the confidence and the motivation of the players, they applied everything we asked for from a tactical and work rate perspective and they were rewarded as they dominated the match against a strong Ukraine side.” The draw for the Elite round has matched Cymru with Slovenia, Turkey and Serbia and will take place in March.
WOMEN'S U19 TEAM
New manager Nicola Anderson took charge of the Cymru women's U19 side for the first time in September with two friendly fixtures against Northern Ireland at Colliers Park, drawing 2-2 and 1-1 in preparation for their UEFA qualifying campaign in October. It proved to be a successful tournament as the side claimed a 3-0 win over hosts Andorra with Mary McAteer adding the third goal following a double from Ella Hilliard. The duo were again on target in the second game as the side claimed an impressive 4-0 win over Moldova with Phoebie Poole also scoring twice to set up a decisive final match against Albania.
Jessie Taylor opened the scoring for Cymru before Poole continued her form with a hat-trick as the side earned an impressive 4-1 win to top the group. Following a change in the competition format, the side have now achieved promotion from League B to League A, and they will now face England, Belgium and Iceland when the next round of games take place early next year.
“It's been absolutely fantastic,” said Anderson following the campaign. “The girls are a huge credit to themselves, to their families and to their country. From start to finish they dominated in all of their performances and really showed what we have been working on since May. It was nothing more than they deserved and it was so pleasing to watch all the way through.”
WOMEN'S U17 TEAM
Former Cymru international Loren Dykes began her tenure as manager of the women's U17 team with an impressive 1-1 friendly draw against England at St. George's Park in August ahead of their UEFA qualifying campaign that would take place in Sweden in October. However, it would prove to be a challenging group as an opening 2-0 defeat to Italy was followed by a 4-0 loss to France. A 3-0 defeat to the hosts followed to leave Cymru bottom of the group and relegated to League B. The side will now return to action next year with fixtures against Turkey, Latvia and Armenia in Group 2.