How Many Countries Are In This Country?
The match against Wales allows us to invoke one of the famous lines from Jason Sudeikis’s portrayal of Ted Lasso. Originally launched as a promotional campaign for NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage, the fictional American football coach is tapped as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur.
Standing on the sidelines during a training session, he takes interest in Welsh international Gareth Bale and asks what country he’s from…
To answer Ted, along with England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, Wales is one of four countries that make up the political union of the United Kingdom. The UK is its own sovereign state, but each of the four nations have a certain amount of autonomy and local authority.
In soccer terms, each country also has its own National Team, which is why the USMNT is playing Wales this week instead of Great Britain.
As for Ted Lasso, Sudeikis has turned that promotional campaign into a fully-fledged series on Apple TV+. Check it out if you haven’t already…
Wales is the third oldest national team in the world. The Dragons played their first international match nearly 150 years ago, facing Scotland in Glasgow on March 25, 1876!
On December 6, 1882, Wales convened in Manchester, England along with the other UK nations – also known as the “Home Nations” – for the International Football Conference to write worldwide rules for the game. The meeting established the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which to this day convenes to approve annual changes to the Laws of the Game.
The country has three high points in international football. They qualified for the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden, advancing out of the group stage before falling 1-0 in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Brazil, who were led by 17-year-old Pele.
More recently, the Welsh made their first appearance at the European Championships in 2016, topping a group which featured England, Slovakia and Russia. Advancing to the knockout round, Wales downed Northern Ireland 1-0 (Round of 16) and upset Belgium 3-1 (Quarterfinals), before falling to eventual champions Portugal 2-0 in the semifinals.
Against the USMNT
The sides have met just once, with the USA winning 2-0 in a friendly on May 26, 2003 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis put up the goals, goalkeeper Nick Rimando earned a shutout in his first start for the USMNT, and striker Brian Ching made his debut in the 2-0 win, ending a 10-match unbeaten run for the visitors.
Thursday’s match was originally scheduled for March, but cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Here and Now
Similar to the USMNT, who will tackle the Concacaf Nations League Finals, 2021 Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying in 2021, Wales is also using Thursday’s friendly as preparation for three different competitions.
Later this window, Wales will play their final two matches of UEFA Nations League B against Ireland and Finland. The Welsh sit on top of Group 4 with 10 points, one ahead of the Fins, making their meeting on the last matchday crucial for promotion to League A in the competition’s next edition.
The country again qualified for Euro 2020, clinching an automatic berth by finishing second in Group F behind Belgium. Due to the global health pandemic, the tournament was moved to the summer of 2021, when Wales will face Italy, Switzerland and Turkey in Group A.
Finally, Wales will also begin qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup next March.
WALES DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)GOALKEEPERS (3): Danny Ward (Leicester City/ENG; 7/0), Owain Fôn Williams (Dunfermline Athletic/SCO; 1/0); Tom King (Newport County; 0/0
DEFENDERS (9): Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United/ENG; 18/0), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; 57/0), Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic/ENG); 97/0), James Lawrence (St. Pauli/GER; 6/0), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town/ENG; 12/0), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth/ENG; 12/0), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Luton Town/ENG; 1/0), Connor Roberts (Swansea City; 20/1), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; 7/0) Neco Williams (Liverpool/ENG, 5/1)
MIDFIELDERS (9): David Brooks (Bournemouth/ENG; 14/1), Daniel James (Manchester United/ENG; 14/2), Brennan Johnson (Lincoln City/ENG; 0/0), Dylan Levitt (Charlton Athletic/ENG; 4/0), Joe Morrell (Luton Town/ENG; 9/0), Josh Sheehan(Newport County; 0/0), Matthew Smith (Doncaster Rovers/ENG; 11/0), Jonny Williams (Charlton Athletic/ENG; 25/1), Harry Wilson (Cardiff City; 19/3)
FORWARDS (5): Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG; 85/33), Tom Lawrence (Derby County/ENG; 19/3), Rabbi Matondo (Schalke 04/GER); 6/0), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City; 9/3), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United/ENG; 9/0)