WALES UNDER-16s were left with a solid platform on which to launch their campaign for next year’s Under-17 European Championships after finishing as unbeaten hosts, as the UEFA-sponsored development tournament drew to a close on Sunday.
A 1-0 win over previously unbeaten Iceland at the GenQuip stadium, Port Talbot, completed the mini-tournament and will leave manager Geraint Williams pleased with his side’s return of two wins and a draw from the quick-fire mini-tournament which crammed in three games over four days.
Wales found themselves unable to break the deadlock against Iceland in a first-half which figured largely on the opposing goalkeepers. Play was stopped midway through the opening half when Welsh stopper Lewis Thomas (Swansea City) – who himself was a late change in the Welsh starting line-up after Luke Pilling (Tranmere) was forced to withdraw during the pre-match warm up – received treatment after a mid-air collision before finally being stretchered off as a precautionary measure with a suspected neck injury.
Then, during the additional time being played as a result of the delay in play, Wales were denied the lead from the penalty spot. Hordur Fannar Bjorgvinsson made an excellent save low down to his left and held onto the ball from Welsh captain Joe Morrell’s (Bristol City) spot-kick.
Bjorgvinsson, in the two games I’ve seen of him, is the player who has caught my eye most and his displays will have undoubtedly gone unnoticed by the gathering of scouts have been in attendance at each game. Although his build is slight, he is of good height and evidently installs a great deal of confidence in his defence, showing composure on aerial balls along with good distribution and agility, as proven by his penalty save.
Back to the game, and its momentum lost its way somewhat in the second-half as the spate of changes on either side did little to help the flow. Wales, superior in possession, were unable to provide quality of the delivery as they attacked down both flanks. However Wales finally made the breakthrough, when Elijah Phillips’ (Cardiff City) shot was spilt by substitute keeper allowing Connor Leomonheigh-Evans (Bristol City) to gratefully pounce on the ball and fire home.
As the game entered added time, Wales signed off on a high as Morrell showed great close-control to jink his way past three Icelandic defenders in limited space before squaring the ball across the goalmouth for Daniel James (Hull City) to put the result beyond doubt.
In Sunday’s other game, Northern Ireland overcame the Faroe Islands 2-1 at Stebonheath, leaving Northern Ireland with a defeat, draw and win from their three matches.
Thursday: Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland; Iceland 2-0 Faroe Islands
Friday: Wales 1-1 Faroe Islands; Northern Ireland 0-0 Iceland
Sunday: Wales 2-0 Iceland; Northern Ireland 2-1 Faroe Islands
An identical tournament involving the same nations will take place next featuring Under-16 Women’s sides in an identical format. Bryntirion Athletic, Glamorgan Sport Park, Treforest and Ely Rangers will be the host venues, with the competition commencing on Tuesday 16 April, which will hopefully whet the appetite ahead of the Women’s Under-19 European Championships which arrives in South-West Wales this August.