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Thursday, 10 March 2016 16:15

Wales Under 19s Complete 3-day Double

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THURSDAY 10th MARCH - Cyncoed Campus, sunny.
WALES UNDER 19 1 CZECH REPUBLIC UNDER 19 0 (Friendly international)
After only five days, I'm back at Cyncoed. This week the university are hosting two friendly fixtures at under 19 level between Wales and the Czech Republic, the first having been on Tuesday afternoon. I had thought of seeing that one, and when Wales won 3-2 I sort of wished I had. But the weather had been dreadful, and Saturday's uncomfortable two hours up here in the bitter wind was still too vivid in the memory. But this Thursday morning is a different proposition: dry, sunny, slightly less cold and with a lighter wind. The 11.00 kick off lends an unusual air to the game, but the crowd is exactly what you get at these midweek representative games: mostly officials, parents and scouts, with a few curious others.

It's a measure of how far the Welsh junior system has improved that we come here expecting to enjoy the game. It's not so long ago that defeat would have seemed almost inevitable, so poor was the Welsh record at levels right up to under 21. We're all hoping for a repeat of what sounds a fine game on Tuesday, but both sides have rung the changes to utilise their full squads. Wales have seven changes to their starting eleven. So, it's fair to say, we are probably not watching what Geraint Williams considers his strongest selection. The Welsh youngsters are soon under pressure, conceding plenty of possession to the Czech side, and conceding some quite dangerous free-kicks too. From one of these, keeper Rhys Williams has to be smart to tip a shot round his post.

Wales struggle to get into shooting positions, though they do have a few corners to show for their endeavours during the first half. They've undeniably been on the back foot, so it's a little against the run of play when a free-kick from Jordan Davies causes indecision in the Czech defence, and Cardiff City youngster Sam Williams pounces to score just before half-time.

In the second half, with Wales having brought on a few substitutes to help defend the lead, it's overall a more even match. There are chances for Wales to extend the lead - the impressive Mark Harris seeing one shot drift wide of the far post - but the Czechs have chances too. The Welsh defence looks organised and able to deal with these without panic, and Rhys Williams in goal (who was one of the seven changes today) gives a particularly assured performance as Wales hold on to complete the double over the visitors.

A different game from Tuesday, in different conditions. Less entertaining maybe, but definitely more comfortable for spectators. And a win's a win, in any case.

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