There’s something special about Wales. Not just the players they have at their disposal in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but the thousands of supporters that follow them through thick and thin.
The Red Wall has returned to the global stage after sixty-four years of heartbreak and turmoil, this was a moment they were going to savour. They were going to war.
Their 1-1 draw with the USA in their opening Group B match of the World Cup was evidence that hard work, sheer will power and a bucket load of passion does not go a miss.
The Wales supporters made a fine showing of themselves during Monday’s match
Wales may not have the star studded line-ups of England or France; but the tenacity and bravery from this group of players under the tutelage of manager Rob Page, along with the wavering support of their fans from Cardiff to Bangor, this journey was always going to be special, win or lose.
The Welsh have earned the right to be here. They made it through the biggest obstacle of them all, and the overriding emotion was one of relief and joy. This World Cup was an unmissable moment for the generations.
The country has been hurting, and this was their chance to show the world they have the quality to perform on a global stage. The older generation of Welsh fans believe the younger generation have been ‘getting it good’, enjoying the best the country has had to offer for decades with two successive European championships and now this.
But it’s those fans, the ones who lived through the pain of 1986 and 1994 qualifying heartbreaks, the near-misses that have been etched into their minds for eternity, the final piece in the puzzle had been added, sixty-four years of agony forgotten within a blink of an eye.
Captain Gareth Bale (centre) equalised late on as Wales showed their fighting spirit
This may be the Dragons’ third international tournament in the last four, but the sheer importance of Qatar not only for Welsh football, but Wales as a whole.
Their footballing achievements have always been overshadowed by the attainment from their Rugby counterparts, Wales were now a footballing nation, there was no doubt about that. Fans have travelled over four thousand miles to be here for this momentous occasion, regardless of the controversy surrounding it, this was something not to be missed.
A once in a lifetime opportunity for many supporters, they are here for the ride, and once the chorus of Lands of My Fathers began to commence, the symphony of sound was masterful, an unequivocally spine-tingling moment to behold.
This was the match between the most populous nation in the tournament and the least. On paper a fairly even match, but once referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim blew his whistle to start, the Welsh were left in the USA’s tracks.
They never got going, and once Timothy Weah put the US ahead, the Red Wall effect began to waver, they looked exasperated as their dream slowly became a nightmare.
The Wales fans, almost all dressed in red, could be heard throughout the match
It appeared the pressure was starting to get to Wales, on the biggest stage of all. Bale and Ramsey, the stars of the side for the past decade, struggled. Unable to dictate the game in the manner that they had hoped, the countless years of playing at the highest level getting to them as they enter the twilight years of their career.
They are not what they once were, but their importance to this side was clear to see. Acknowledgment from fans that their heroes aren’t what they used to be, that this opportunity has maybe come four years too late.
Kieffer Moore’s introduction was met with a second half performance that the Welsh should take encouragement from heading into their next game with Iran.
Tournaments are about showing grit and determination when in a position of weakness, Wales did just that when they were awarded a spot kick after Bale was fouled by Tim Ream in the penalty area.
But once the Welsh skipper placed the ball onto the penalty spot, there was only every going to be one outcome. A perfectly struck penalty from Bale was met by a caldron of passion, the sheer ecstasy from the Red Wall rang around the stadium, the noise had picked up, Wales were finally on the front foot.
Regardless of the result for the Welsh, the faith and belief showed by the Red Wall proved that the fans truly are the twelfth man.