Ian Rush: Why I Want Scotland In The World Cup Play-Off Rather Than Ukraine
Welsh football has a lot going for it at the moment and if we can qualify for the World Cup it will be a momentous occasion for the country.
Gareth Bale had been getting a bit of stick in the Spanish media, so for him to come out and answer his critics like that was very satisfying for us Wales fans, and for himself I’m sure.
If anything, it probably gave him extra motivation to prove what he’s still capable of, not that Bale has much left to prove given the career he’s had.
I don’t get all the negative press Bale gets in Madrid. From where I’m standing, he hasn’t let them down at all – he’s scored in two Champions League finals and helped them to numerous titles.
Okay, he’s had a few injury problems, but even when he has been fit they haven’t been playing him, so what is he supposed to do? For the press to call him a 'parasite' is totally out of order.
But Bale is strong and if it gave him that little extra bit of incentive to perform for Wales against Austria then all the better for us. That was a reminder of the player he can still be.
Watch: Bale Double Beats Austria
That first goal was unstoppable – it was up and over the wall before the keeper even had a chance to move, while his second goal was more of a striker’s finish. Two amazing goals and two very, very important ones for Welsh football.
We’ve got one more game to go – either against Scotland or Ukraine – and I know who I’d rather play. If we play Ukraine, the whole of Europe will be willing them to win, and I can understand that. I wouldn’t want Wales to have to come up against that tidal wave of support, so I’d rather play Scotland.
Anyway, we have unfinished business with Scotland, going way back to 1978 when they beat us in a winner-takes-all qualifier at Anfield, when Joe Jordan handballed the ball but somehow won a penalty for Scotland.
And again in 1985 when I was actually playing, we had to beat Scotland to make the play-offs for Mexico ’86 and we were winning 1-0 with 10 minutes to go before Scotland got another penalty and equalised, sending them through instead.
If we meet Scotland again in 2022, hopefully it’ll be third time lucky for Wales.
Maguire Boos ‘Ridiculous’
England’s win over Ivory Coast was overshadowed by some supporters booing Harry Maguire. In my eyes, they’re not real England fans. I don’t understand what type of supporter shows up to a game with the intention of booing their own player without them having put a foot wrong.
It’s a disgrace, really. Those responsible are the type of people who go to games to cause problems for no reason. Maguire has had a few bad games for Manchester United but he’s never let England down, so for him to get booed for nothing is embarrassing really.
Also the fact it was only a friendly in which England won comfortably and kept a clean sheet only makes it all the more ridiculous. I’m happy Maguire was able to stand up to it, he didn’t seem fazed by it at all and put in a good shift.
I can’t really relate to how it must have felt for him – I never got booed in my career – but it was nice to see his England team-mates stick up for him with support from Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson, who have quite rightly urged fans to get behind the team in what is a World Cup year.
Salah vs Mane Take Two
It’s disappointing that Mohamed Salah – one of the best players in the world – will not be at the World Cup in Qatar. Every top player dreams of playing in the World Cup for their country. It’s not something I ever experienced unfortunately, but Salah still has time to make the next one.
It wasn’t nice to see the Senegal fans point lasers at the Egypt players as they took their penalties in what was another dramatic shoot-out between the two countries. That’s not fair play and Egypt have every right to feel aggrieved.
Salah probably won’t say anything about it publicly, he’s too professional for that, but I’m sure it probably played a part in him missing his penalty.
With Sadio Mane as their talisman, Senegal are a good side, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they get on in Qatar. Will this be the year an African team finally makes it to the last four or further? Who knows, but Senegal are the African champions and have a really good squad so the expectancy is with them.
One thing I’d like to see African teams improve on is their stamina, if any of them are serious about going deep in the tournament. To get to the semi-finals you’ve got to have a good engine and we’ve seen from some good African sides in the past run out of steam a little too early.
Cameroon in 1990, the Senegal team of 2002 and Ghana in 2010 all lit up those respective World Cups, but without being able to go beyond the last eight. Typically, they put a lot of effort into the group stages and end up fatigued, as far as I can tell.
Pacing themselves with the latter rounds in mind is something European and South American teams are particularly good at, but African and Asian teams can learn from that.