It was tough tournament for the U19s side but County stars Jay Foulston and Lewis Collins both say they learned a lot whilst on International Duty with Wales.
The U19s Wales team were one of eight teams to compete in the 28th Annual Slovakia Cup. The eight teams were split into two groups (A and B) and the winners of each group would play in the final to determine the tournament winner whilst the other six teams would play in position deciding match.
Wales U19s side were drawn in Group A and would play Hungary, Azerbaijan and tournament hosts Slovakia. Group B consisted of USA, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Wales faced Slovakia in their first match. Jay Foulston started the match, whilst Lewis Collins came on as a substitute. The Welsh team defended resolutely in the first half but were eventually broken down by a dominant Slovakian team and went on to lose the match 4-1.
No shame is struggling against Slovakia, however, as the host side went on to win the tournament and were undefeated throughout.
Just 24 hours later, Wales faced another tough test in Azerbaijan. Picking up an injury, Lewis Collins was left out of the squad for this game. Jay Foulston was on the bench. Wales conceded early and struggled to really regain control of the game. They created chances but were unable to convert their efforts into goals and eventually fell to a 3-0 defeat.
Both Foulston and Collins start Wales’ third and final Group A match. A game which was essentially a third/fourth play-off vs Hungary.
Wales opened brightly and dominated the early stages of the game. The breakthrough would come for the Welsh side when County’s Jay Foulston headed his team in front on the 22nd minute.
22’ - Goal for Wales! Jay Foulston heads his side in front as Paul Bodin’s team take a deserved lead. 0-1 #HUNWAL— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) 10 May 2018
Foulston’s first half header would prove to be the game's only goal as the U19s secured their first victory of the tournament. The seventeen-year-old took to Twitter to celebrate.
Great shift from the lads to win 1-0👏🏼happy to score my first international goal ❤️⚽️ https://t.co/g2B4wLE7tC— Jay Foulston (@JayFoulston) 10 May 2018
Speaking to FAW.cymru, Wales U19s manager Paul Boden hailed “terrific performances” throughout the side before adding: “I think we saw a lot more of the individuals in a good team performance, and that's what we're looking for.
“That winning feeling in football is something you can’t replicate.”
That victory meant that Wales had finished third in Group B and would therefore face third in Group B in a fifth/sixth place play off. Ukraine proved too tough a test for Wales romping home with a 5-0 victory. Lewis Collins had one of Wales’ best chances in the came but was denied by some sharp goalkeeping in the Ukraine goal.
38’ - Lewis Collins tries to get Wales back into the match but his effort is saved by Dany Junior Ltaif. 0-2 #WALUKR— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) 11 May 2018
Despite the results not going their way, manager Boden talked the FAW website that there were a lot of positives.
“It's an intense competition against really good opposition,” explained Bodin to FAW.cymru. “We've learnt an awful lot. I've learnt an awful lot about the players.
“I'm positive, the signs are good, and I'm sure we can be stronger moving forward.”
Speaking to Newport County AFC, Foulston said: “I was delighted to have been picked to represent my country at U19s level again. It was an amazing experience to play in the Slovakia cup and a good experience because we were playing in a competition against good teams.”
On scoring his first international goal, Foulston added: “It was an amazing feeling to score my first international goal and even better that it was the winner! The clean sheet also topped it off as it was our first win and clean sheet of the tournament.”
Lewis Collins added: “It was a great experience to be involved with the U19s again. I enjoyed playing with a great bunch of boys and under great management and coaching.
“The matches showed what standard of football you need to be at in order to play higher; however, I enjoyed every moment of it as I was allowed to express myself on a bigger stage. It was a great way for me to finish the season off.”
When asked what he’d learned Collins said: “I feel the thing I learnt the most is that you’ve always got more.
“In the third game, I was really struggling at half time but the coaches [asked me to give] them 10 more minutes. I ended up playing an extra 25 mins in the second half and a full game the next day but if I hadn’t had the encouragement or the belief of the coaches, I feel I wouldn’t of played as long as I could of.
“It just shows how much you really can do when you put your mind to it.”