In a final warm-up game before the start of the 2014 World Cup campaign, Chris Coleman was able to select a relatively strong starting eleven for his first home game in charge of Wales at the Parc y Scarlets stadium in Llanelli.
He elected to leave Craig Bellamy on the bench, mindful not only of his recent exertions for Team GB in the Olympics, but also of his impending first game for new club Cardiff City on Friday night. His fellow Team GB team mates Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and Aaron Ramsey, however, all were selected to start. After his no-show for the Olympic team, Gareth Bale was also in the starting line up. Simon Church and Sam Vokes started the game in attack.
The match began at an unusually high tempo for a friendly game and Bosnia’s slick passing and good movement ensured they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening exchanges. Wales were guilty of sloppy defending early on, with Ashley Williams uncharacteristically failing to clear an early ball into the area and allowing Manchester City forward Edin Džeko a shot on goal in the opening minutes which was saved well by Boaz Myhill. This should have been a warning that Bosnia were not here just to make up the numbers and while Wales created a few good chances of their own in the opening 20 minutes, the opposition always looked more likely to open the scoring.
The inevitable happened after 21 minutes. Miroslav Stevanović drove the ball easily past Neil Taylor down the right before crossing an inch perfect ball into the area which was duly slotted home by Vedad Ibišević, giving keeper Myhill no chance.
With the cushion of the 1-0 advantage, Bosnia were given even more license to attack, constantly dragging the Wales defence out of position, with most of the attacking threat coming down the right flank.
They should have been two up after 27 minutes. Ramsey was caught in possession in the middle of the park, Džeko picked up the loose ball, and turned Darcy Blake inside out before unleashing a low drive which whistled just past the post.
As is so often the case of late, Gareth Bale provided Wales’ biggest threat, firing just wide from a long-range free-kick and testing the Bosnia keeper with a header on 35 minutes. Joe Allen also went close twice for Wales; the best chance a shot which was brilliantly tipped onto the cross bar by Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begović.
The second half started in much the same way as the first, with Bosnia the brighter side, although Wales created the first clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. Ramsey played a delicious ball through the middle aiming for Vokes, but it was just cut out by the Bosnian defence.
In the 54th minute, while Bale lay injured on the edge of the area after landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge, Bosnia played on and a clinical finish from arguably their best player on the night, Miroslav Stevanović, left Wales with no way back.
Bale was growing visibly frustrated with his team-mates’ sloppy passing and poor possession and tried once more to inspire with a surging run to the byline on 60 minutes, but his cross into the area just evaded Vokes, who opted to try and poke the ball home, when heading it was the better option.
Coleman made a number of substitutions in the final third of the game, including bringing on the much-anticipated Bellamy to a rousing reception from the majority of the home supporters, although he was clearly incensed by the mindless few who chose to jibe him about his recent Team GB exploits.
Bellamy’s impact was instant and visibly lifted the whole team, underlining just how crucial it is for this campaign for Coleman to keep him on-board.
Hal Robson-Kanu also impressed, coming on as a replacement for Bale on the right, showing good strength and awareness on the ball and a willingness to take on the defence and surge forward.
Huddersfield Town’s Joel Lynch also made his Wales debut, replacing Darcy Blake on 77 minutes.
But ultimately, the night was to end in huge disappointment for Wales. Whether Chris Coleman will have learnt anything new from the game is questionable. What he knows for certain is that to have any chance of qualifying from the group, they need to be considerably better in all departments.
Attendance: 6, 253