The first international match for the Wales national football team took place on 25 March 1876 when they played Scotland at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, the home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, with the Scots claiming an emphatic 4–0 victory. The match was organised by Llewelyn Kenrick who had founded the Football Association of Wales only a few weeks earlier.
The first official international association football match was between Scotland and England in November 1872 (although this had been preceded by a series of "unofficial" matches in the previous two years), following which Scotland and England met annually in a series of friendly matches.
Club football was well established in Scotland with Queen's Park having been established in 1867, although the earliest Scottish club is believed to be the Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh founded in 1827.
In Wales, association football struggled to gain recognition with rugby being preferred, especially in the south. Football clubs were becoming established in North Wales with Druids and Wrexham both being founded in 1872. It would be over twenty years before football became established in the south, with Cardiff City being founded in 1899 and Swansea Town as late as 1912. There was no recognised league or cup football with the clubs having to arrange friendly matches between themselves on an ad hoc basis.
In January 1876, a London-based Welshman, G Clay-Thomas, placed an advertisement in "The Field" newspaper proposing that a Welsh team be formed to play Scotland or Ireland at rugby. Llewelyn Kenrick of the Druids club saw the advertisement but decided that the international match should be Association football.
Kenrick told "The Field" that the footballers of North Wales accepted the challenge and he advertised for players:
"Test matches will take place at the ground of the Denbighshire County Cricket Club at Wrexham for the purpose of choosing the Cambrian Eleven. Gentlemen desirous of playing are requested to send in their names and addresses."
To be selected, the players had to be born in Wales or have sufficient residence in the Principality. Although Kenrick corresponded with several Welsh clubs and the Universities to raise a team he was criticised for allegedly overlooking players from the south.
The test matches took place in February 1876 under the auspices of the newly created Football Association of Wales. Kenrick selected six players from his own club, Druids, plus two from local rivals, Wrexham, and one from English club, Oswestry. William Evans (of Oxford University) was the only player from South Wales selected, with the others all from North Wales, other than John Hawley Edwards who was born in Shrewsbury in England and had previously represented the England national football team. Edwards was a fellow solicitor and member of the Shropshire Wanderers. Amongst the original selection were two players from Newtown, William Pryce and R.O. Evans, but neither were able to travel and withdrew.
All eleven players selected for Wales were amateurs, comprising "two lawyers, a timber merchant, a student, a soldier, a stonemason, a physician, a miner, a chimney sweep, an office worker and an insurance company employee."
Like the Welsh, the Scots fielded six players from one club (Queens Park) and three of their players were making their international debut: James Lang, Moses McNeil and Robert W. Neill. Both teams played a 2–2–6 formation; i.e. two fullbacks, two half backs and six forwards.
The Welsh kicked off, but the Scots soon gained possession and proceeded to attack the Welsh goal with the Welsh having to defend solidly, William Evans being called on early on to "save the fortress" and send the ball upfield. The Welsh players were unable to break out of their own half and the Scots had a goal disallowed after Joseph Taylor "scored" direct from a corner. The Scots were by now "working better together than their opponents, who showed to more advantage in individual than combined play." On the 40th minute, Lang's centre was caught by David Thomson in the Welsh goal, but John Ferguson "seeing an advantage, jumped forward with remarkable suddenness" thus forcing Thomson to drop the ball which was "kicked home" "amid great cheering" from the Scottish crowd.
After the half-time interval, the game became rather one-sided and the Scots ran in a further two goals (from Lang and MacKinnon) within ten minutes of the restart. The Welsh goal survived further scares until Henry McNeil completed a fine move upfield by Ferguson and Thomas Highet.
The match report concluded: "Of the Welsh players, the backs, Evans and Kenrick, showed decidedly best, and Williams was not unfrequently good in his play". Of the Scottish players, all of whose play was considered "quite fine", Ferguson, Henry McNeil, Moses McNeil, Highet and Sandy Kennedy were mentioned as "deserving of praise for the pluck they displayed."
After the match, the Welsh visitors were entertained with dinner at McRae's Hotel.
The return match came on 5 March 1877 at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham; the Scots were again victorious, winning 2–0. The two countries continued to meet each other in friendly matches once each year in February or March until 1884 when the British Home Championship, which involved England and Ireland, was inaugurated.
Scotland and Wales then met each year, other than when war intervened, until 1984, when the British Home Championship was abandoned. The two countries have also met in World Cup qualifying matches for the 1978 and 1986 tournaments, and are currently in the same group for the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup. The Scots won the first 13 matches against Wales, with the first draw coming in 1889. It was not until 1905 that the Welsh claimed their first victory, defeating the Scots 3–1 at the Racecourse Ground. Since the two World Cup qualifying matches in 1985, the countries have met five times. The most recent was on 12 October 2012, when Wales won 2–1 in a World Cup qualifier.
The full record between the two countries is as follows: