Wales' national football team has represented Wales in international association football since 1876, making it the third oldest team in the world. On March 25, 1876, they played their first official match, four years after England and Scotland played the first ever international football match. Wales lost that first game 1–5 at home to England.
Wales played their first international match outside of Britain, against Ireland, on May Day (1 May) 1876. The match was held at Stoneycroft Park in Cumberland, now part of modern-day England but then in the Irish province of Ulster. Wales won the match 2–3 with goals from Billy Bradford and John Charles Edwards.
Wales have played Ireland again every five years since then, with the exception of 1901 when they did not play due to the British government requiring all sports teams to withdraw from Ireland during this time of peace negotiations. In 1927, Wales and Ireland agreed to an annual international between them from then on, with one match being played each year until 1939 when World War II halted all football activity. After the war, the matches were resumed with two games being played each year until Ireland joined the European Union in 1973. Since then, only one international has been played, with Wales winning it 3–0 in Llanelli in 1995.
Wales played their first international match, against Scotland, in 1876, at The West of Scotland Cricket Club, Partick, with Edwin Cross and Alfred Davies being the first of many Wrexham FC players to play for Wales. This game ended in a 2-2 draw.
Other early players included William Armstrong from Liverpool and Daniel Jones from Newport County. They both played in two games against Scotland in 1877. Wales lost both matches 0-4.
The first win for Wales came three years later, when they defeated England at Crystal Palace Park, London, by one goal to nil. Robert Jones (not related to John Jones) was responsible for this victory. He was a full back who had come to notice while playing for Wrexham and later joined Southampton for £1500 in 1883.
His career at Southampton didn't last long as he moved to Portsmouth a year later for a similar fee. In 1889, he went back to Wrexham where he finished his career four years later at the age of 33.
Scotland were the dominant nation within football at the time, having formed the Scottish Football Association in 1873, so it wasn't surprising that most Welsh players started out in the English league.
In 1880, the first long-term successful formation was documented. However, in Association Football, published by Caxton in 1960, the following occurs on page 432 of Vol II: For the first time in history, at least in Wales and maybe in the United Kingdom, a side used three half-backs and five forwards That team was Newport County AFC, who played against Wrexham A.F.C. in the 1880–81 English League Season.
Newport County were one of four clubs that formed the Southern League in 1885, with the other three being West Ham United, Millwall and Southampton. The experiment lasted only one season before all four teams resigned from the league. In an effort to continue playing football, another club called Newport County AFC was formed about two months after the original club disbanded. This new club also only survived for one season before disappearing too.
Thus, the first successful formation in modern football was the triumvirate of half-back (or "half-time" as they were then called) Jack Randall, Charlie Hankin and Eddie Hockridge in 1880. They were playing for New Brighton F.C. against Aberdare Athletic in the North Wales Coast League. The game is often cited as the beginning of the "professional era" in Welsh football because these were the first players to be paid for their services. Previously, they had been given food and a place to stay but no money.
Since the initial tournament in 1930, the championship has been held every four years, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to World War II. Wales' national football squad has competed in every World Cup since 1950, but has only made it to the final event once, in 1958. That year they were beaten 3-1 by Brazil at Stockholm's Stadion.
Wales qualified for their first World Cup in 1930, when they took part in the inaugural event in France. They failed to advance from their group, which also included Belgium and Switzerland, and they have not returned since.
However, Welsh fans could be found cheering on their country at each successive World Cup up until 1958. The team was disqualified after three matches because its players participated in a strike over wages. Their record stood until 1982 when they again qualified for the finals. This time they were invited to Mexico City where they reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out by Argentina 1-0.
It took another two decades before Wales would qualify for yet another World Cup. The 1994 edition was the first in which more than one country entered the competition. Since then, Wales has qualified twice more, in 1998 in France and in 2002 in South Korea and Japan.
Wales has never won the World Cup, but they did reach the final in 1958.
The Development of Rugby in Wales, 1850-1900 Rugby-like sports, such as cnapan, have been played in Wales for generations. Rugby appears to have arrived in Wales around 1850, when Reverend Professor Rowland Williams brought the game from Cambridge to St. David's. Within a few years it was being played by students at several Welsh universities. During this early period there were almost no rules, and handling the ball was not allowed. The only objective was to kick it away from your opponent's field into your own.
As rugby developed into an organized sport in England, it also became formalized in Wales. The first Welsh rugby union was formed in 1876, just three years after the original "English" code had been established. However, the laws of rugby as we know them today did not come into effect until 1881. The principal difference between the two versions of the game is that in England they used feet, while in Wales they used hands.
In addition to these differences, there was also some controversy over which version of the game should be recognized as official. The issue was finally resolved in 1889, when both codes of rugby were accepted by the Cardiff Association, which meant that they could now be played during their season. This association also arranged for a series of matches to be played between the teams of Wales and England, with the winners becoming champions of Britain.