The Cymru shirts that defined generations

The launch of the new Cymru kits paves the way for history to be made as Rob Page’s side prepare to take on Finland in the EURO 2024 play-offs in Cardiff next week. 

Success can lead to such shirts holding iconic and timeless memories, so here’s a look back at some of the shirts that have defined our greatest results along with the players who wore them to make it all happen. 

1958 – A classic for a World Cup debut 

Jimmy Murphy was the legendary coach from the Rhondda who made the World Cup dream a reality in 1958 as he masterminded a play-off victory over Israel. But while Murphy orchestrated matters from the touchline, it was legendary figures such as John and Mel Charles, Cliff Jones and Ivor Allchurch who pulled on the classic Cymru shirt of the era to book their place in Sweden. Cymru would reach the quarter-finals of the tournament that summer, eliminated by eventual winners Brazil and a teenage star named Pelé. 

1976 – The forgotten EURO team 

One of the all-time retro kit classics was introduced as Cymru reached the very last stage of qualifying for EURO 1976 but were denied a place in what was then a four-team finals by a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Yugoslavia. The Admiral kit with the central badge flanked by the famous thick yellow and green bands was the inspiration for the modern day must-have bucket hat, and was worn by some Cymru greats including John Toshack, Alan Curtis, Leighton James, Terry Yorath and Brian Flynn. 

1980 – Cymru 4-1 England

A memorable sun-soaked May afternoon in Wrexham proved to be a fantastic result for England, but only because Mike England was taking charge of Cymru for the very first time. The white sleeves of the Adidas red home kit were raised four times in celebration as goals from Mickey Thomas, Leighton James, Ian Walsh and an own goal from Phil Thompson sealed a famous result. “It was a an incredible day,” said England in an interview with Sgorio. “It was a great game and everyone enjoyed it so much. It was a day we’ll never forget. It was just so wonderful.” 

1985 – Cymru 3-0 Spain 

A result to define the generational attacking talent that Cymru had at their disposal was also delivered at the Racecourse in April 1985 as two goals from Ian Rush and an incredible flying volley from Mark Hughes in World Cup qualifying ensured Cymru would claim one of their greatest results. Hughes’ most replayed international moment made amends for the defeat by the same scoreline in Seville the year before, while the all-red Adidas kit with the three subtle bands across the front will forever be associated with that moment of genius. 

1991 – Victories over Germany and Brazil 

Germany may have arrived in Cardiff in June 1991 as world champions, but they left defeated and pointless as Ian Rush scored a fine individual goal to humble Berti Vogts’ side. Despite boasting a superstar line-up that included Rudi Völler, Jurgen Klinsmann and captain Lothar Matthäus, it was a defensive line of Andy Melville, Mark Aizlewood, Paul Bodin and Kevin Ratcliffe in-front of goalkeeper Neville Southall that kept them at bay. A freak result? Absolutely not, as a goal from Dean Saunders did the same to Brazil when they visited Cardiff a couple of months later. Memories locked for another iconic red Umbro shirt of the time. 

2002 – Cymru 2-1 Italy 

What a night and one of those ‘I was there’ moments as Simon Davies and Craig Bellamy scored the goals against a star-studded Italian side to register another famous night in the capital. Wearing the latest variation of the red Kappa home shirt and captained by the late, great Gary Speed, this was a result for the ages as Mark Hughes’ side made a significant statement in the qualifying campaign for EURO 2004 that would eventually end in a painful play-off defeat to Russia. 

2011 – Cymru 4-1 Norway 

Although this impressive performance and result occurred in a friendly as Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and a brace from Sam Vokes wearing a classic red Umbro kit sealed a comfortable victory, the game would become significant for the tragic events that followed. The optimism and belief that the match offered for the next campaign quickly ended as manager Gary Speed lost his life in devastating circumstances just a couple of weeks later. The match is now remembered as his final contribution for his country after an illustrious career as both player and manager, and represented everything about the potential in the squad he had assembled. 

2016 – EURO qualifying 

It was fitting that ending the 58-year wait to qualify for a major tournament should be achieved wearing one of the most beautiful shirts in Cymru history, although these two facts may be connected. This Adidas home shirt with white pinstripes and green bands was worn in the defining game of the campaign as Belgium were beaten 1-0 in Cardiff through a goal from Gareth Bale. Chris Coleman’s side would end generations of hurt and heartache by finally adding a ‘Q’ to their name in the group standings, and with it setup a summer that will never be forgotten as the Red Wall crossed the channel for EURO 2016. 

2016 – Don’t take me home

Some fans just wanted to sing the national anthem in Bordeaux, others would have been happy just to see Cymru score. Chris Coleman’s squad were heading into the unknown in France but they went into it with the entire nation behind them. The Adidas kit took on a more traditional style with the white bands on the sleeve, but it soon achieved iconic status in the history of the Cymru shirt as the side defied the odds to reach the semi-finals. Cymru won all four matches that they played in that red shirt, but lost the only two games they played in the now infamously-cursed lime and charcoal number, including the decisive semi-final match against Portugal. 

2022 – Austria & Ukraine 

In homage to the famous Admiral kit of the 1970’s, Adidas lost the white and added more yellow and green to the red home shirt as Cymru reached the play-offs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Gareth Bale scored all three goals as Austria and Ukraine were defeated 2-1 and 1-0 respectively to book Cymru’s place in Qatar. Bale’s incredible free-kick in the semi-final remains one of his finest goals for his country, while the last of his 41 international goals would hit the back of the net in Qatar as Cymru claimed their only point in a 1-1 draw against the United States. The team captain and talisman would call time on his career in the aftermath of the tournament. 

Cymru Women – Significant steps through the Cymru shirt

Although the senior Cymru women’s team are still waiting to make their first appearance at the finals of a major tournament, the Cymru shirt has played a significant role in their progress. The trailblazers of the 1970’s had to represent their country wearing rugby shirts as well as kit borrowed from Swansea City, while even up until the turn of the millennium, it was standard practice for the men’s Cymru kit to be handed over to the women’s team for their international fixtures. 

Of course, things are now very different both on and off the field, and a key event took place in 2019. Although the 2-0 friendly defeat to Italy in Cesena might not seem particularly notable, the Cymru players had their names printed on the back of their red Adidas shirts for the very first time. The ambition for new head coach Rhian Wilkinson now is to ensure those names are on show at EURO 2025 as she prepares to lead her side into the opening match of the qualifying campaign next month.

2024 – TBC

Who knows what’s in store for Rob Page and Rhian Wilkinson’s teams in Cymru’s new kits? Page will hope to guide Cymru to their third successive EURO finals this summer while Wilkinson is aiming to take Cymru to their first major tournament final at UEFA Women’s EURO 2025.

Learn more from FA Wales

Sign up to receive all things FAW, from team news, tickets, domestic, grassroots, to exclusive offers and prize draws.

We respect your privacy and are committed to protecting your personal data – view our privacy policy by clicking here.