Cymru, we love you

Our last blog post finished with the words, “Wales represent the best best chance of seeing 1-11 on the pitch together in the latter stages”, but we’ll be honest and say that it was something expressed more in hope than expectation. Their number 8, Andy King, had only featured in the final group game against Russia before last weekend’s quarter-final against Belgium, with Joe Ledley (16) clearly ahead of him in the depth chart.

That remained the case for the last-eight tie last Friday evening, but otherwise the rest of the line-up had numbers between 1 and 11 (ignore the placing of wing-backs Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor, they’re the wrong way round):

Screen shot 2016-07-05 at 10.33.55

Look, though, at the subs – with Wales having gone 2-1 ahead, King was brought on for Ledley and, gloriously, the 11 players on the pitch were those wearing the 11 lowest numbers. The numbering was that of a ‘German’ 3-5-2, with 10 (Aaron Ramsey) in midfield and 11 (Gareth Bale) up front.

The perfection only lasted two minutes as Sam Vokes came on for Hal Robson-Kanu, but Chris Coleman’s judgment couldn’t really be questioned as Vokes scored the clinching third goal. Ramsey’s yellow card means that he is suspended for the semi-final against Portugal, but fingers crossed for 1-11 again in the final.

The answer to the question you didn’t ask – the last team before Wales to field 1-11 at the European Championship was the Republic of Ireland, who started their first and third games at Euro 2012 in that fashion. Incidentally, they had done the same at Euro 88.



Euro 2016 group-stage review

We promised you this after the preview piece that no doubt everyone is still talking about, and hopefully the wait since the group stages ended on Wednesday night hasn’t affected anybody badly.

Of 36 games played across the six groups, 50 of 72 goalkeepers wore number 1, though only Group F – Iceland, Hungary, Portugal and Austria – saw a clean sweep for the traditional netminder’s digit.

While 12 came next after 1 in terms of the goalkeepers wearing it, 23 was more popular on the field, with the first-choice keepers of the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Croatia wearing it and starting all of the games.

There were seven instances of 12 playing in goal, three each for Romania and Ukraine and then Italy’s back-up Salvatore Sirigu coming in for their final match against Ireland. Spain’s David de Gea, allocated 13 with Iker Casillas keeping 1, started all of their games but he was the only example, while Lukasz Fabianski (22) replaced Wojciech Szczesny after their first game and played the next two.

With Wales’s number 1 Wayne Hennessey unavailable for their first match against Slovakia, Danny Ward – with 21 on his back – came into the side, but Hennessey’s return for the England game saw the Dragons come close to fielding 1-11, with only number 8 Andy King missing, replaced by Joe Ledley, who has 16.

Nobody came closer than that, with Belgium and Sweden matching Wales’s ten. In fact, the Belgians’ first game against Italy saw them start with the ten players from 1-10 and number 23, Laurent Ciman. While he was replaced by number 11 Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, it was after Dries Mertens (14) and Divock Origi (17) had already come onto the field.

Against Ireland, Belgium had nine of the lowest numbers but they were back to ten for the Sweden game, with Thomas Meunier – number 16 – in instead of Marouane Fellaini (8). In fact, that game could be regarded as the best from a numbers point of view, with Sweden only missing number 2, Mikael Lustig, who was injured in the first match against Ireland, with Victor Lindelof (14) replacing him.

In the Ireland match, Sweden had begun with nine of the 1-11, Lindelof and Oscar Lewicki, 18. While the two who didn’t start, Erik Johansen and Albin Ekdal, 3 and 8 respectively, did come off the bench, the total never rose above nine. With the Swedes eliminated after not scoring a goal themselves (Ireland’s Ciarán Clark’s own goal was the only thing in their ‘for’ column), Wales represent the best best chance of seeing 1-11 on the pitch together in the latter stages.