Toshack's young hopefuls return from Croatia beaten but unbowed

Wales returned home beaten but far from dispirited after a gallant performance in Croatia on Sunday night. John Toshack's side were given little hope as they travelled to Osijek for their season-ending friendly against the Euro 2008 quarter-finalists with a squad of just 17.

Toshack, who was denied the services of 15 senior players for the match for a variety of reasons, was forced to make seven changes and handed out five new caps.

Not surprisingly his inexperienced line-up failed to hold out against a Croatia team boasting an inspired Luka Modric and were ultimately beaten 2-0 after superb strikes from Ivan Rakitic and Drago Gabric.

Yet Slaven Bilic's men were frustrated for large spells by the spirited Welsh, who were also unfortunate to have what would have been the game's opening goal disallowed.

Defender Chris Gunter said: "It was going to be a tough game; it was what we expected. But in the first half, apart from the goal, Wayne [Hennessey] didn't really have a save to make and with a few different decisions we could have been going in at half-time a lot different.

"I think overall there are a few positives to come out of it. If injuries crop up these are the boys that are going to be needed but I'm sure they'll be looking to get in on their own merit anyway, not just because of injuries. To get a first cap is a proud moment and one for them to build on."

Gunter was involved in the game's one moment of controversy, when his cross from the left found its way into the Croatia net at the far post.

Initially Reading's Simon Church appeared to have claimed the decisive final touch before being flagged offside.

Gunter argued Church had not actually touched the ball and the goal should have stood. The 24-year-old Nottingham Forest player said: "Churchy said he wasn't offside but he didn't touch it anyway. Maybe he was interfering but it went straight in anyway. If they go in they can change the game. But it is a really good team to play against and a really good atmosphere. It was a good game to be involved in."

Gunter's Forest team-mate Robert Earnshaw, who won his 49th cap in partnering Church up front, also felt there were reasons for optimism looking ahead to the start of Euro 2012 qualifiers in September – especially as by then players like Craig Bellamy, Gareth Bale, James Collins, Simon Davies, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Collison should be ready to return.

Earnshaw said: "When you lose a game it is disappointing but we have got good things to take back. In the first half, especially, we were a threat and I thought we did very well. We defended well and they didn't have too many chances. It was just the timing of the first goal; maybe it killed us a little bit.

"But sometimes when someone drills it into the corner from 25 yards you have got to hold your hands up and say it was a good goal. It was a great finish. Maybe in the second half we gave them too much space, and with the subs maybe you lose shape a little bit."

One of the new players to make a positive impression, albeit at a cost, was Wrexham youngster Neil Taylor. The 21-year-old defender, who along with Mark Bradley, Christian Ribeiro and Hal Robson-Kanu was promoted from the Under-21 squad last week, made his debut off the bench in the second half, playing in midfield.

Taylor's appearance made him just the second non-League player to represent Wales in 78 years, and not even an ankle injury which meant he left on crutches could take the gloss off the occasion. The 21-year-old said: "I'm OK, it was just a kick. It's ballooned up a bit but we're just taking precautions.

"It happened in the last few minutes and I wasn't going to come off. It's fine and I'm just glad to make my debut."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor