Our first in 60 years, the World Cup in Russia is upon the Welsh team
I feel a certain pressure that I’ve never really felt in Football Manager. This is Wales’ first World Cup since 1958–60 years without one for an expecting nation. After last summer’s triumph in France, the pressure is on to not just make up the numbers in Russia.
My first step is to cut my 30-man preliminary squad to 23. Adam Matthews is the first to go, before Neil Taylor gets the chop. Joe Wales, Joel Lynch and Louis Thompson also miss out. Harry Wilson and Marley Watkins also miss out.
That leaves our FIFA World Cup squad as follows:
Our warm up matches against Austria and Costa Rica both ended in 2–0 wins, with goals for Gareth Bale, Joe Allen and Ben Woodburn.
Matchday 1: Wales v France
The biggest decision is who to start up front in my 2 — I go for Ben Woodburn and Sam Vokes. The faith is repaid within 15 minutes, when Woodburn gets on the end of a Ramsey throughball. He hits it first time and beats Huge Lloris at his near post.
On 35 minutes, Chris Gunter has to come off through injury and Ben Davies replaces him with Ashley Richards injured also. Minutes later, Ousmane Dembele nods a Lucas Digne cross home at the back post.
Wales 1 -0 France
On the stroke of half-time, Ben Woodburn is played through by Sam Vokes. He takes a heavy touch, but manages to prod the ball past the on-rushing Lloris to grab his second!
We take the lead into half-time and I tell the lads to keep it going. We’re keeping it tight and Danny Ward makes a nice save from Nabil Fekir, but on 73 minutes France are level when Karim Benzeme gets on the end of Sidibe’s cross.
Wales 2–2 France
The rest of the half trickles out without much to report. Danny Ward saves from Benzema, who should’ve done better, but we hold on for a valuable point in our toughest match.
Full-time: Wales 2–2 France
Matchday 2: Wales v Ivory Coast
Chris Gunter is fit again, so we remain unchanged as we play the Ivory Coast in Luzhniki.
We go 1–0 down within 3 minutes through a Jean-Philippe Gbamin header from a Serge Aurier cross.
Wales 0–1 Ivory Coast
On 27 minutes, Gervinho puts the Ivory Coast 2–0 up and things are looking bad for us.
Wales 0–2 Ivory Coast
Just 2 minutes later, though, Gareth Bale collects the ball from Sam Vokes and powers past the Ivory Coast backline. He carries the ball some 30-yards and slots the ball home.
Wales 1–2 Ivory Coast
I make two changes at half-time and switch tactics. Ben Woodburn and Sam Vokes come off, with Paul Dummett and Tom Lawrence coming on.
It proves to work. Within 2 minutes of the half starting we’re level. The ball trickles from Declan John to the backpost, where James Chester prods home unmarked from 2-yards out. His first international goal is vital.
Wales 2–2 Ivory Coast
Wonderboy Franck Kessie restores the African’s lead just two minutes later and we’ve got it all to do once again.
Wales 2–3 Ivory Coast
On 60 minutes, Gareth Bale finds Tom Lawrence who smashes the ball home!
Wales 3–3 Ivory Coast
You guessed it, a few moments later the opposition grab another goal.
Wales 3–4 Ivory Coast
On 80 minutes, Gareth Bale gets on the end of a Chris Gunter cross to level us.
Wales 4–4 Ivory Coast
Seconds later, Ashley Williams smashes one against the cross-bar from at least 30-yards out and I almost jump straight out of my chair. We’re piling on the pressure, but we have to be conscious of conceding again.
We hold on.
Full-time: Wales 4–4 Ivory Coast
France and Mexico draw too, so we go top on goals scored. Mexico are our final group match.
Matchday 3: Wales v Mexico
We remain unchanged for our final group match, despite failing to win a match so far. Things start well when Ben Woodburn gets his third of the tournament from a Sam Vokes throughball.
Wales 1–0 Mexico
Mexico are level after James Chester misjudges a long ball and Chicharito gets on the end of it.
Wales 1–1 Mexico
The former Manchester United striker grabs another when Raul Jimenez beats James Chester in the air to nod it through to him.
Wales 1–2 Mexico
We face going out and go to overload. It works! Ben Davies pulls back to Tom Lawrence, who taps home with 15 minutes to go.
Wales 2–2 Mexico
The Cardiff attacker gets another minutes later when Ben Woodburn carries the ball into the box, but a tackle from the Mexican defender carries the ball to Lawrence. He smashes home.
Wales 3–2 Mexico
We change to a defensive formation and the boys hold on!
Full-time: Wales 3–2 Mexico
The win means that we qualify for the second round in second place.
We draw Brazil. Fuck.
Matchday 4: Wales v Brazil, Second Round
With 3 goals so far, I have to bring Tom Lawrence into the starting XI. We go with a 3–4–3 strikerless formation, with Sam Vokes dropping to the bench. I also bring in Wayne Hennessy for Danny Ward, who has conceded quite a few in his first ever major tournament. George Williams also comes in for Ben Woodburn and Ben Davies for James Chester.
Brazil line up with a straight 4–3–3, with a deadly front three of Firmino, Luan and Felipe Vizeu.
On 9 minutes, we’re behind. Willian finds space on the right hand side of our defence and slots home.
Wales 0–1 Brazil
We’re 2–0 down before half-time, when Jemerson heads home from a corner.
Wales 0–2 Brazil
When Gareth Bales gets injured on 60 minutes, it looks as though our dreams are over.
A huge error from Brazilian ‘keeper Ederson allows a Andy King shot to sneak past him on 71 minutes, giving us a glimmer of hope.
Wales 1–2 Brazil
We can’t add another one, though. The final whistle blows and Wales are out of the World Cup.
Full-time: Wales 1–2 Brazil
I’m disappointed, of course, but this is Brazil and just like in 1958, they proved to be too much for us.