45+2 min: Has Chris Mepham recorded a foul in the box? His elbow smashed into Krollis. There’s a VAR call. It’s waved away. That looked a bit lucky. We have all seen them given…
45 min: Two minutes are added on. Wales have a storm to ride out.
44 min: Ikaunieks looks the Latvian most likely, in picking up the loose balls. When Wales make a terrible mess of a long hoof, he chips it to Uldrikis who gets a slight touch that takes it away from Krollis. Wales suddenly all over the show.
43 min: Latvia stepping it up now, maybe this was the plan all along.
41 min: Oooh, so close. Sudden chaos in the Latvia box, and Danny Ward makes a save from Ikaunieks, then from the corner flaps and the ball is begging to be stabbed in. From nowhere, Latvia might have scored an equaliser.
39 min: Latvia have an attack, in the sense they get in the Welsh half. But that’s it really, There was some kind of shot in there somewhere but it barely qualifies.
37 min: Peter Oh is in: “Thanks for keeping us updated on the various hefty Tobers. Will you also let us know when the Latvia midfield absolutely Jaunzems a speculative shot into row Z?”
As we speak, Ciganiks absolutely ciganiks Jordan James, and should have been booked. Instead, a card is waved at the Welsh dugout for dissent. Uefa rules being adhered to, then, aside from those on heavy, dangerous fouls.
36 min: Two more chances. First, Johnson finds space and whips it wide. Next, Johnson again is the danger man in laying up Harry Wilson who shoots from a long way out and sees his shot saved. It’s getting to the point when Wales’ lack of goals might become problematic. That’s if Latvia stop playing like a drain. Which does seem unlikely.
33 min: Oof, Neco Williams ought to have scored that. Johnson scampers down the wing and lays it across. If anything, Williams hit it too well, Clive.
30 min: Wales needed a rush of blood from the Latvians to score their goal having missed a few chances and that should calm them down. There’s more goals in this for Rob Page’s team. Latvia get a free-kick in a good position and make a Horlicks of it; there is very little threat from the Baltic boys.
It’s so cool, the keeper giving him the freedom of the goal by going early. Slotted in and Wales lead deservedly.
27 min: Ramsey the skipper is seeing plenty of the ball, and suddenly Harry Wilson is baulked by Dubra in the box. Wilson goes down. Dubra can have few complaints…
25 min: Roberts’ header, from Ben Davies’ fine pass and Neco William’s cross and the goalie has to make a save. A well-constructed move from Wales.
21 min: And there we have it: Tobers absolutely tobers into young Jordan James, leaving the young man spreadeagled all over the show.
19 min: A rare Latvia attack and Ikaunieks chases down the ball but can’t keep it in. It looks pretty hot out there.
17 min: It continues to be all Wales. Latvia know their job and they’re sticking to it by siting back in numbers. Harry Wilson takes a thump when he is tackled by Ikaunieks, the No 10 dropping very deep.
14 min: Joe Pearson gets in touch again: “As I am an old man, all but Slowdive are very familiar to me. So Slowdive it is! Since you mentioned Cream, I have to recommend the documentary ‘Beware of Mr. Baker’, absolutely fascinating!”
I was an original, floppy-haired fan in 1991, when their first EPs came out. They came back about 10 years ago. Last two albums great, the song Star Roving a modern classic. But Souvlaki Space Station is the classic album, an almost ambient, spacey sound.
Love that documentary. Not sure I would like to have met Ginger. I heard his last days were spent watching the Talking Pictures TV channel over here, a station recommended to all retro-heads.
13 min: Scott Blair gets in touch: “Kristers Tobers is a name to conjure with. I don’t know for sure if the meaning is unique to Scotland, but it would be perfectly acceptable here to suggest that “The big Latvian defender sprints out and absolutely tobers poor Aaron Ramsey.”
Big Tobers is nowhere near Brennan Johnson, who gets a clear sight on goal and then, clatters the ball over.
11 min: Wales continue to dominate possession, too. Their fans making all the noise, too. Danny Ward being regaled to the tune of Boney M’s Daddy Cool.
9 min: Ben Davies nods the ball from a corner, almost idly so, and Ozols tips over. Latvia seem there for the taking.
7 min: It continues to be all Wales in terms of threat. Quite some noise in that stadium, perhaps coming from the rugby club. The other end of the field has some housing behind it. Good trip, Riga. Went 18 years ago, and had a lot of fun. The local firewater – Rīgas Melnais balzams – is undrinkable and left an unremovable stain on my desk at work.
5 min: Joe Pearson emails in: “What’s the soundtrack for today’s match? Looking for something new to me, and you always come up with interesting recs. BTW, have you seen ‘Justified: City Primeval’ yet? Sparks’ ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us’ makes a significant appearance in the finale.”
Had a delivery just this morning, headlined by Stephen Stills’ Manassas album, The Troggs, Derek & The Dominoes, Cream, James Brown, The Animals, The Seeds and, an actual new album by Slowdive.
3 min: Within seconds, Ethan Ampadu sends away Brennan Johnson, on the burst, and he’s almost through on goal, only to miss his chance. Will Wales live to regret that or get more joy? Not long after that, Ampadu heads a corner over. Good start from Wales, but poor finishing.
1 min: And away we go in Riga, where behind the goal Wales are defending, the Latvians are attacking an open end to what looks like a rugby club behind it.
And after that, there’s a minute’s silence for the earthquake in Morocco. It’s not anywhere near a minute but the point is well made.
Some rather doomy, scary trumpets and deep, deep drums preceded the game kicking off, the type of music that accompanies an imminent atrocity in a war film.
Two well-sung and well-appreciated anthems later and are ready to rock in Riga.
The teams are in the tunnel and Elis James, as mentioned below, is in the crowd.
For Euro 2024’s hosts, it’s been a torrid weekend.
Have some Football Daily on the bloke who will just not go quietly.
Looks like a warm night in Riga.
Ozols, Savalnieks, Dubra, Cernomordijs, Ciganiks, Emsis, Tobers, Jaunzems, Krollis, Ikaunieks, Uldrikis. Subs: Purins, Sorokins, Oss, Daskevics, Ikaunieks, Iljins, Tonisevs, Zelenkovs, Regza, Balodis, Saveljevs, Zviedris
Jordan James, the teenager, and his selection in midfield takes the headlines. He’s the latest young star to come from the Birmingham production line that gave the world Jude Bellingham. And while the expectations should not be aimed that highly, he’s a talented player Wales fans will be delighted to see.
Wales XI: Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, J. James, Williams; Ramsey (C), Wilson; Johnson. Subs: A. Davies, King, Fox, Brooks, Matondo, Cabango, Bradshaw, Cullen, Sheehan, Broadhead.
Not much has changed since Elis James wrote this piece.
Wales played South Korea last week, a goalless draw with little enthusiasm in the buildup or aftermath.
Ben Fisher is in Riga for the match.
The Wales captain, Aaron Ramsey, insisted the mood in the camp is upbeat despite defeats to Armenia and Turkey in June fostering concern among the fanbase. “We have a good chemistry here and everyone enjoys being away with Wales,” he said. “We know how much it means to everyone. Everyone is looking forward to this game. They’re a physical team, a direct team and it’s not always easy when you come off the back of a result, so we’re expecting a response. We’re going to have to stand up to that and show we can deal with it.”
Early team news: Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and wing-back Wes Burns have withdrawn from the Wales squad due to injuries. Joe Morrell and Kieffer Moore are already suspended for a game Wales need to win to keep alive hopes of automatic qualification for next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany.
Two Euros and a World Cup, Wales didn’t half have a bad run in recent qualifiers but they have crashed back down to Earth this time around. Manager Rob Page, such a credit at Euro 2020 and in reaching Qatar, has come under serious pressure for the failings of his team in trying to qualify for Germany. In all likelihood, Wales have to hope that they can get third or qualify through the back door. Wales have won one of their past 13 matches, and that was against Latvia, who haven’t won in nine matches. Something has to give there, right? Right?