Euro 2020: Former lifeguard Kieffer Moore emerges as Wales' hero as bigwigs struggle

Wales rescued a point against an impressive Switzerland side thanks to Kieffer Moore's glancing header in Baku.

Kieffer Moore delivered the goods when it mattered the most. (Image Credit: Twitter)

The Wales fans were quite vociferous in their support throughout their team’s group stage Euro 2020 encounter against Switzerland. Every attack was cheered on, with a defensive block receiving utmost appreciation. Not even a goal from Breel Embolo dampened their spirits, with the fans backing their footballers to the brim. However, as the game came down to the final 20 minutes with Switzerland still holding a 1-0 lead, a sense of fear crept into the reaction of the fans even if for a very short while. They had every reason to considering a below-par performance from stars like Aaron Ramsay and Gareth Bale. Bale attempted one shot and failed to create a single opportunity over the 90 minutes. This was his lowest tally of shots in a 90-minute appearance for Wales since September 2012. 19 of his 39 touches (49%) came in the final 30 minutes of the game.

Daniel James looked confident but struggled to get the equaliser which the fans badly craved for. A loss in the opening encounter had spelt doom for the international campaigns of many nations, and it would have been even tougher for a team like Wales which was largely built on positivity and a solid team spirit, rather than the presence of game-changers in every position.

In such a tense scenario, an unheralded and unlikely hero stepped up to rescue his beloved team, in the form of little-known striker Kieffer Moore. The 28-year-old footballer plays as a forward for Championship club Cardiff City, with his performances not grabbing the limelight very often.

However, his display in the encounter against Switzerland will not be forgotten in a hurry, as Moore headed in the equaliser enabling his side to record a 1-1 draw in a clash where they looked severely short on confidence. The forward enjoyed lesser touches than nine of Wales’ starting 11, but he made it count when it mattered the most. While many players derive inspiration and confidence from past performances and memories, Moore enjoyed none of those as he was playing National League football with Forest Green Rovers, when his nation enjoyed its best campaign in the 2016 edition of the Euros. He had been rejected by Exeter and Leyton Orient earlier. The struggle has extended well before even 2012, with the attacker earning a living as a physical trainer and a lifeguard while juggling a career as a non-league footballer.

Moore never really enjoyed support and backing at any of the clubs represented over the years, having started his career at Truro City before moving to Dorchester Town. The attacker has represented 11 clubs in nine years.

Interestingly, Moore who is named after the actor Kiefer Sutherland, could well have not represented Wales at all considering the difficulties involved in proving his eligibility.

“There was a lot of back and forth because we couldn’t find my grandfather’s birth certificate. My mum was searching everywhere, scrambling around the attic, everywhere; the whole family looking for it. We had to send for a copy but we had to get more information and there was a lot of paperwork involved,” he said.

Robert Page’s tactical masterstroke

Wales manager Robert Page had named Moore as a substitute in each of Wales’ three previous matches, opting to use midfielder Harry Wilson as a withdrawn centre forward against the Czech Republic and France. He further deployed No 10s David Brooks and Tyler Roberts as a front two in the final warm-up game with Albania.

However, an ineffective performance at the Cardiff City Stadium last weekend resulted in an increase in the prospects of Moore being selected for the Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland. Page backed his instincts, entrusting Moore to lead the line. The decision paid rich dividends, as the attacker continued on despite requiring treatment following a clash of heads resulting in a patriotically coloured red headband.

Footballers Ashley Williams and Hal Robson-Kanu hailed the decision to give Moore an opportunity.

“That’s what he’s there for. We’ve been calling for Kieffer Moore to start for two weeks. It sounded like Robert Page always knew he was going to start. He’s still got a bit to do from this position. Good goal for Kieffer, he’s had a good season and I’m really pleased for him,” said Williams in an interaction with BBC.

“He’s been isolated for the whole game. The way that we were setup, it was always going to be difficult for him to have an impact on the game. But it’s moments like that where we knew he could make the difference and he has done that,” stated Kanu.

The world of football enjoys its fair share of inspirational stories like Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez. One more illustrious addition joins the list. One may well see Moore maintain the same impact for Wales in the Euro 2020, earning the nation a sparkling campaign.

Arnab Mukherji

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