It has been a mixed year for the Cymru intermediate teams but there were positive returns for both U17 teams as Craig Knight’s team qualified for the Elite Round of fixtures while Nia Davies’ side achieved promotion to League A. Meanwhile, Matty Jones was named as the new U21 manager ahead of the next qualifying campaign. Here’s a closer look at 2022.
The start of a new era brought the year to a close for the Cymru U21 side as Matty Jones was confirmed as the successor to Paul Bodin and his project of building for the future began in September as his young squad headed to Austria for a friendly international. Despite the 2-0 defeat, a number of players were handed their debuts at this level. “We have strategies and processes now to align the U21s with the 1st team and that’s how it’s evolved with the thought and detail that goes into every department now,” said Jones.
It was a tough start to the year for the U21 side as they suffered a 5-1 defeat to Switzerland in March, but they responded to the setback by holding Bulgaria to a 1-1 draw in Newport a few days later. The qualifying campaign for the 2023 finals ended for Cymru in June as Bodin’s side went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Llanelli before goals from Eli King and Oliver Hammond defeated Gibraltar 2-0 at the same venue. Cymru finished fourth in Group E in what would prove to be Bodin’s final campaign as U21 manager, and his legacy will be in the number of players that have progressed through to the senior squad during his tenure.
It was a busy 2022 for the Cymru MU17 squad as they began the year competing in the UEFA Elite Round in March. Drawn in Group 7 alongside Serbia, Turkey and hosts Slovenia, the side opened the campaign with a heavy 5-0 defeat to Slovenia in Radenci, and then conceded a further five goals as Turkey claimed a 5-2 victory in their second match with Luke Harris scoring twice from the penalty spot. The campaign ended with a 4-2 defeat to Serbia despite goals from Callum Osmand and Omari Benjamin.
Ahead of the next qualifying campaign, the squad played two friendlies against France in September, but suffered two 2-0 defeats. The side headed to Croatia to take on Sweden, Albania and the hosts the following month, and opened the campaign with a positive 2-0 victory over Croatia through goals from Joseph Hatch and Troy Perret. Hatch was again on target in the 3-3 draw with Sweden with Frederick Issaka and Luey Giles completing the scoring, and top position in the group was confirmed with a 0-0 draw against Albania in the final round of fixtures and with it a return to the UEFA Elite Round next year.
Ahead of their March qualifiers the Cymru WU17 side welcomed Scotland to North Wales for two friendlies in February. The side lost 4-1 in Denbigh before claiming a 2-1 victory at Colliers Park. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it unsafe for the side to travel to Armenia in March and they therefore withdrew from the qualifying campaign. The side then travelled to Croatia for two friendlies in September, drawing 1-1 in the opening match before losing 2-1 a few days later in preparation for the next campaign in October and November.
Competing against Montenegro and hosts Israel in Group B5, Cymru enjoyed an impressive 4-0 win over Montenegro through an Elena Cole penalty and further goals from Ania Denham, Chloe McMahon and Maddison Perrott. The side then repeated the scoreline in the decisive match against Israel as Olivia Francis and a hat-trick from Cole ensured Cymru would win the group and with it achieve promotion to League A for the next round of games in the new year.
As the Cymru U19 side failed to make it through to the Elite Round last year, 2022 started in June with a friendly mini-tournament in Croatia as the side competed against England, Austria and the hosts. An impressive 4-2 victory over Croatia provided a positive start to the week but a 2-0 defeat to England was followed by a disappointing 6-0 reverse against Austria on the final day. However, the camp provided valuable preparation as Cymru would host the qualifying campaign in September.
Drawn against Hungary, Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar in Group 4, Cymru were held to a 0-0 draw against Hungary in Bangor in the opening game, and then went down to a 2-0 defeat to an impressive Republic of Ireland side at the same venue. However, the tournament would end for Cymru in dramatic style as they defeated Gibraltar 9-2 at Wrexham with eight different players on target, but the goals conceded in the emphatic win meant that they would miss out on a place in the Elite Round on goal difference by the narrowest of margins.
Promotion to League A in 2021 offered the Cymru WU19 side plenty to look forward to this year and they opened 2022 with a friendly against Scotland in February ahead of their next round of competitive games. Despite the 2-0 defeat, the fixture provided important preparation for the April fixtures in England, even though Cymru would lose the opening game 3-0 against the hosts. A 1-1 draw with Belgium followed thanks to a goal from Tegan McGowan just before half-time, and a goal from Phoebie Poole in a 1-0 win over Iceland on the final day ensured the side would avoid relegation and retain their place in League A.
The next qualifying campaign for Cymru would take place in Hungary with the side drawn against Italy, Serbia and the hosts in League A3. A 3-0 defeat to Hungary on the opening day emphasised the scale of the challenge ahead. Despite taking the lead against Italy through Poole in their second match, a 3-1 defeat followed, while a 4-2 defeat to Serbia in the final round of fixtures confirmed their relegation back to League B for the next stage of the competition. Poole and Tianna Teisar scored the Cymru goals in the defeat.
Coming up in 2023
The Cymru U21 squad will discover their qualifying opponents in early 2023 as the long journey to reaching the 2025 finals begins for Matty Jones. However, the immediate focus will be on Craig Knight’s MU17 side as they prepare to host the Elite Round of fixtures in March having been drawn against Scotland, Montenegro and Iceland in Group 2. The UEFA U17 Championship Finals will take place in Hungary during May and June. Meanwhile, Rob Edwards MU19 squad will head to Montenegro later in the year to take on England, Austria and the hosts in their next qualifying campaign. The Cymru WU17’s promotion means that Nia Davies’ squad will head to the Netherlands in March to take on Finland, Sweden and the hosts in League A7, while Nicola Anderson’s WU19 side will host their League B6 fixtures against Kazakhstan and Estonia in April.