Know Your Opponent: Wales

Tony Merola is the head coach of the Fort Worth Vaqueros in the NPSL’s Lone Star Conference.  He was a professional player at Wrexham FC who made his first team debut in July 1994.  He was also selected to play for the Wales U-18 National Team squad in October 1993.  Merola made over 200 appearances playing semi-professionally at various clubs in the Welsh football pyramid.

Merola has over 15 years of coaching and management experience with some of the biggest names in the beautiful game including the Dallas Surf, Boswell High School, Tulsa Soccer Club, FC Tulsa, Solar Soccer Club, Liverpool FC International Academy America, Wrexham Football Club, Glyndwr University, Deeside College, and Mold Alexandra Football Club.

He has earned the prestigious UEFA A, B, and Elite Youth Licenses to go along with 

NSCAA Premier and Advanced National Diplomas. 

Who is your favorite player for the Wales National Team?

I’ve got a few but right now it would have to be goalkeeper Danny Ward because I coached him for two years whilst he was a young kid at Wrexham FC at U15 and U16.  To watch him grow and develop and now see him play regularly in the EPL is a proud moment but more importantly seeing him hopefully play in the World Cup for Wales is truly amazing.

Who are the Wales players that fans should watch for? Why?

Obviously Gareth Bale is a very dangerous player and can hurt any defense in the World.  Bale has great technique and delivery so any set pieces in the attacking third will be a great opportunity for us.  Brennan Johnson has pace and is playing well right now in the EPL for Nottingham Forest so he’s another player in my opinion who can create something out of nothing and one to watch as he’s only 21 and fearless.

What are your expectations for Wales in the World Cup?

As far as I’m concerned we’ve already exceeded our expectations by being in Qatar.  64 years is a long time since we were last in the World Cup so it would be amazing if we could get out of the group and get one knockout game in.  In the knockout stage anything can happen but Wales on the World Cup stage has truly put my small country on the map again.

What is your prediction for the U.S. vs. Wales? 

I think this will end up being a 1-1 draw.  No one really wants to lose their opening game so I believe it’ll be a tense opening game but both will settle for a point.  My wife is American and so is my daughter so this result in the Merola household will be the best outcome. 

What does Wales need to focus on to succeed at the World Cup?

They need to focus on what they are good at and have the same mentality that got us here in the first place.  Basically, respect the opponents we are playing but we won’t be afraid of anyone.


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