Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Say it ain’t so, Joe… Wales can still do it, can’t they?

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

That phrase passed into sporting immortality when an American reporter allegedly asked baseball star ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson about his admission that he’d fixed the 1919 World Series. (He hadn’t).

It was also asked – in a roundabout way – by reporters to Joe Allen on Sunday when he was quizzed on whether making the World Cup knockout stages in Qatar was now a lost cause.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

And he did say it wasn’t so. Sort of.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, replied Allen, in so many words as he contemplated what needs to be done in Wales’ final Group B match against England on Tuesday.

And what needs to happen in the other simultaneous match between Iran and the USA.

The performance of our lives

“We need the performance of our lives against England,” said Allen, the midfielder who is set to start his first game of the tournament.

The Swansea City player – formerly with Liverpool and Stoke City – came on as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat to Iran after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Allen will be 33 years old in March. He’s got 74 Welsh caps. John Toshack gave him his Wales debut way back in 2009.

When he says the performance of his life, it’s a long life in international football terms – 13 years as a member of the Wales squad.

It’s the same for Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Wayne Hennessey and the rest of Wales’ ageing brigade.

There’s unlikely to be another World Cup finals for any of them – and this is their first.

So, yes. It’s the performance of their lives that’s required here as none of them were born the last time Wales beat England, 38 years ago, in 1984.

England 6, Wales 0

Even then, unless England are beaten by a four-goal margin, Wales will need Iran and the United States to draw their final match to make the round of 16 in Qatar.

“I think everyone is hurting because of the situation we find ourselves in and the disappointment of the result (losing 2-0 to Iran) and only having one point after two games,” said Allen.

“That’s the hurt at the moment. It’s a feeling of missed opportunity in the first two games.

“We’ve had the time needed to digest that disappointment. Our focus now moves onto getting on the training pitch, putting in the work and preparing for the performance of our lives against England.”

England have recorded six successive victories since Wales last beat their neighbours, 1-0 at Wrexham in May 1984 in the now defunct British Home Championship.

Their last competitive meeting was at Euro 2016 when Daniel Sturridge scored a stoppage-time winner to secure a 2-1 England win, a game that Swansea midfielder Allen played in.

Derby day

Playing down the British ‘derby’ factor, Allen said: “I don’t think we could be more motivated. “We’re in the World Cup and have to win. Regardless of who we play in it, we all know what’s at stake and what a huge moment it is for our nation.

“It’s about putting everything into it. Ideally you want it to be in your hands but this is the situation we find ourselves in. While there’s still a glimmer of a chance of going through we’ve got to throw everything we can at it.”

The truth is that Bale and Ramsey have failed to make a real World Cup impact after being Wales’ standard-bearers for the past decade or so.

Bale did convert the penalty that secured a 1-1 draw against the United States, but the pair have been off the pace after coming into the tournament with minimum game time.

And England these days are a much better team than the version that went to the 2016 Euros.

Rob Page facing the Saka

Not only do they have the threat of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling but they have young talents such as Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham.

Phil Foden and Jack Grealish – probably worth more than the entire Wales team combined – cannot even get into Gareth Southgate’s starting eleven.

And yet England were poor in their last match against the USA and should really have lost.

Wales defender Ben Davies said: “Gareth and Aaron have turned up for Wales over and over again.

“They have shown the quality they have and, to be honest, I don’t think we’d be here without them.

“To criticise them in any way is probably very unjust. I think we have to put our faith in them and that they can do it for us one more time.”

Social Share

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Popular Posts

Scroll to Top