Our Society 5 september — 11:13

To Cardiff with national team 11 years later (Azeri Daily from Wales)

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BY ELMIR ALIYEV, SPORTS SECTION

9 pm British time. AZAL AirbusA320 aircraft landed at Cardiff International Airport. Azerbaijani football players go to the passport control desks. Two days later, at about the same time, they will confront the players of the Wales team led by Gareth Bale from Real Madrid at the Cardiff City stadium.

But it will be the day after tomorrow. For now the memories take me far, to the year 2008. 11 years ago, your author first went on a trip with the Azerbaijani football team. Then, too, was the beginning of September. The national team of Azerbaijan, as now, was to play in Cardiff with Wales...That was supposed to be the first official match of the Azerbaijani team led by Berti Vogts. The German, chosen by the new leadership of AFFA as the head coach, only started to lead the team at that time. What football will the team play under Vogts? Will we be able to stop losing with him with a big score? And will we claim to be in the final stages of the World and European Championships? Anyway, what awaits Azerbaijani football?

There were many questions. But even in the dark, we hoped for a sensation in the match against the Wales team. Then we could not imagine that in 10-12 years Azerbaijan will host the Euro Cup final and the games of the final stage of the European Championship at a new huge stadium. We didn't dream that every year the Azerbaijani teams would play in group tournaments of European club competitions, due to which Azerbaijan will rise from the fifth ten to the third ten in the UEFA ranking and be firmly entrenched there.

A lot of good things have happened over the years. But the Azerbaijani team pleased us only with episodes. And under Vogts, and under Robert Prosinecka, and under Gurban Gurbanov, the solution to global tournament problems was far away.

Now the team is being trained by Nikola Yurcevic. Under his leadership, the team in the selection for Euro 2020 lost three of the three matches. At first glance, the Azerbaijani team in Cardiff has no chance against the super-motivated Welsh, who need points now like air. But sensations and even miracles in football sometimes happen. We hope for them, as then, in 2008...

11 years ago, the Azerbaijani team lost in Cardiff with a score of just 0:1, having conceded in the 83rd minute. It could have missed one earlier, but in the 67th minute, Kamran Agayev repelled a penalty. The 70,000th Millennium Stadium is remembered for its intricate corridors, in which it is very easy to get lost. But Cardiff remained in my memory as a small town, where at the end of the week it is difficult to meet a sober person.

This time the game will take place at the newer and more compact Cardiff City Stadium. The Wales team is now a more venerable team, playing in the semifinals of Euro 2016. But the Azerbaijani team...

The composition of our team has changed almost completely, but whether it began to play better than 11 years ago is a big question. We, as then, can only hope and believe.

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