2018 FIFA World Cup European Qualifier - Wales v Serbia
Hello sports fans,
On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to photograph the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Wales and Serbia at Cardiff City Stadium on behalf of Action Plus Sports Images. This FIFA World Cup is due to take place in Russia between the 14th June and 15th July 2018 and 209 countries have entered this premier football competition. To ensure that only the best 27 national teams go to Russia to play against each other, the national teams are spilt across continental areas - Africa, Asia, Europe, North and Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and South America. As with the other continental areas, the 54 European national teams are drawn into Groups. In the European area there are 9 groups of national teams (designated Group A to Group I) with Wales and Serbia in Group D.
This was my first time at Cardiff City Stadium so I decided to travel early as the match was a 7:45pm kick-off. The journey was pleasant albeit long and I arrived in plenty of time not to be affected by the other prominent match taking place in Cardiff - the Wales v Australia Rugby match down the road at the Millennium Stadium. Cardiff City FC is the home club and they play in the English Football League Championship and as such they don't have to install the additional technological requirements of the Premiership i.e. Ethernet connections on pitch side. As such, photographers are reliant on using wi-fi/mobile communications to transmit images during the match.
Upon arrival, I checked in with the Media and collected my accreditation, bib and match day programme. The media room is, I have to say, well equipped and bigger than some Premiership clubs that I have attended. Arriving early allows me to go pitch side and capture general views without the distraction of steward high-visibility vests. In addition, it can enable me to capture some exterior stadium views without too much car and people traffic. I have say though Cardiff City Stadium is not exactly a photogenic stadium. After a bit to eat and stoke the engines ready for a long evening, I started looking for fans that stood out in national dress, face painting, flags etc. I must admit I was a little disappointed in the lack of effort made by the Wales supporters. The Serbian supporters did make an effort and made for more interesting photographs.
Before the match and with Remembrance Sunday the following day, there was a mark of respect shown by the teams and supporters with the display of poppy wreaths. After the national anthems and team photos, I was off to pitch side to start capturing the action. My plan was to capture action from both teams but with a particular emphasis on Wales. In the first half, Wales played away from my location which made this difficult but I saw a lot of Serbian attacks. Both teams fought well but Wales knew they had to do well especially after Northern Ireland won their match hours before taking them to the top of this group. Wales played well in the first half and were rewarded by a Gareth Bale goal in the 30th minute. Unfortunately, Serbia came out in the second half with more fight and Wales faded and it was very unlucky for Wales to lose out in the 85th minute with a goal from Mitrovic. Wales lost 2 points that they could have done with to retain their hopes of being in with shot at qualification.
As with all photographers capturing live sport, it is best be prepared for technological failures and after only 10 minutes in the second half, my card reader failed to download images from all my cards. After years of service it just decided to give up and without a spare I was unable to transfer images. A lesson learned - always have a back-up which I have now resolved for any future sporting events I cover. At the end of the match, I reviewed all my downloaded images and sent over around 55 images in total even with card reader failure.
I had a great time and albeit unfortunate, and I would love to do a similar match again. It was a long drive home in to the early hours of Sunday morning. As always, it was a pleasure to see the players perform from a close viewpoint and the match provided a selection of images which can be seen on the Action Plus Sports Images website.
Keywords: 12th November, 2016, 2018, Action Plus, Cardiff City Stadium, European, FIFA, Football, Qualifier, Russia, Serbia, Soccer, Wales, World Cup
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