Wales qualify for Euro 2016 despite loss to Bosnia
Despite a 2-0 defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wales reached its first international tournament since 1958 on Saturday thanks to Cyprus beating Israel 2-1 in European Championship qualifying.
Belgium also qualified from Group B by beating Andorra 4-1, the country’s first Euros since co-hosting the tournament in 2000. The wait had been much longer for Wales, and both teams were celebrating on the pitch in Bosnia when news came through that Israel had lost.
”We didn’t know what the other result was but now we do and wow, I can’t explain how it feels,” Wales manager Chris Coleman said. ”We got a bit flustered in the second half but in the circumstances, you can understand.”
Wales last played in a major tournament at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, meaning previous Wales internationals like Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs and Liverpool’s Ian Rush never had a chance to compete at the most prestigious level of international football.
But Coleman’s side is much more rounded than the teams Giggs and Rush played in.
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey are the key players, but others like Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen and Swansea defender Ashley Williams have been essential in qualifying for next year’s competition in France with a game to spare.
”Growing up as young boy, everyone dreams of playing in a major tournament,” Bale said. ”To achieve it here is a dream come true but it doesn’t stop here.
”If we lose the ball we will fight for our teammate. We are like brothers on the pitch and that shows the togetherness in the squad. We have all fought deep and hard all qualification and this is what happens when you do that.”
Ramsey was equally overwhelmed at his side securing one of the 24 places at Euro 2016.
”What a great moment for Welsh football,” Ramsey said. ”We’ve finally got into a major tournament. It is not going to sink in for a while.”
Bosnia, meanwhile, kept its hopes alive of reaching a playoff with the win. Milan Djuric sent a looping header over Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in the 71st minute and the host doubled its lead in the last minute through Vedad Ibisevic.
But Wales’ qualification was already assured in Jerusalem, where Cyprus took all three points thanks to an 80th-minute goal from Jason Demetriou.
Cyprus had taken the lead with a header from Junior Dossa on 58, before Nir Bitton pulled a goal back on 76, but the teams were only level for four minutes.
Wales is now second in Group B on 18 points, two behind Belgium. Wales hosts Andorra in Cardiff on Tuesday, while Belgium is at home to Israel.
For Belgium, qualifying was more routine.
Radja Nainggolan, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Laurent Depoitre all scored for Marc Wilmots’ side, which was in control throughout the encounter, despite Andorra reducing the score to 2-1 with a penalty from Lima Sola.