Scenes of jubilation engulfed the 750-strong Welsh crowd at the Bilino Polje Stadium last night as Wales qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 57 years since the 1958 World Cup despite a 2-0 away defeat at Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Wales: The 57-year tournament wait is over
Welsh fans awaited the news on the result of the Israel v Cyprus match after their own final whistle, knowing that a Cyprus win would keep Israel at least four points away from Wales, regardless of their own result. The crowd were ecstatic as the news filtered through that Israel had lost 2-1, cementing a major tournament qualification for the first time in over half a century, when not even the manager, nor the majority of the coaching staff were born.
The home fans were also celebrating as their victory kept their hopes of finishing third in the group and reaching the play-offs alive. It was quite a sight to see both sets of fans celebrating. Wales still have the opportunity to top Group B on Tuesday, as the team face bottom of the table Andorra who are yet to gain a point in nine matches, having conceded 34 goals at an average of just under four goals a match.
It was an emotional evening for Welsh fans, with many believing that Gary Speed would have been proud having laid the initial foundations for this young Welsh squad to carry out such an incredible achievement. Chris Coleman also praised his former Welsh team-mate saying that ‘he would be looking down smiling on us’.
Coleman himself has done a remarkable job leading the Welsh team after taking charge in a period of turmoil after the tragic passing of a cult hero. Still not fully popular with the Welsh public, Coleman’s achievement deserves praise no matter how it was achieved. He has instilled unity amongst a squad lavished with passion and tinged with quality and that has been the repercussion started by Speed, after John Toshack’s lifeless and nonsensical spell in charge of Wales.
The overemphasized point of ‘Wales being a one man team’ are founded on nothing more than opinion. The facts show that, despite conceding two goals in the defeat against Bosnia and Herzegovina, the defence consisting of the flawless captain Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Jazz Richards, Ben Davies, James Chester and Chris Gunter as well as goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had only conceded two goals in eight qualifying matches.
The link-up play between Aaron Ramsey in the engine room along with the hold up play of Hal Robson-Kanu have been a vital component to Wales’ victories but Gareth Bale has scored the important goals, with match-winning goals coming against Cyprus away, Belgium at home, two goals against Andorra away and two goals against Israel away. Out of Wales’ nine goals scored in the tournament qualifiers, Bale has scored six of those, with one a piece for Aaron Ramsey, David Cotterill and Simon Church.
With Tom Bradshaw scoring nine goals for Walsall this season and Bristol City’s Wes Burns coming to the fore many Welsh faithful are calling for their inclusion in the Welsh set-up to assist with the lack of goal scoring observed during the qualification stages.
There were some fantastic Twitter reactions to Wales’ qualification as social media amongst the Welsh faithful went crazy, with many of the fans looking already at booking hotels for the tournament that takes place during the summer of next year, whilst also keeping an eagle-eye on the tournament’s group stage draw which takes place on December 12th in Paris.
With the World Cup draw released, Wales’ successful Euro 2016 campaign allowed for a high seeding, resulting in a fairly pleasing group for Wales, who would fancy their chances of a consecutive major tournament qualification.
Read thoughts on Wales’ World Cup qualification chances against their group opponents.