As Welsh football enjoys a run of success that has seen the side rise to 10th in the FIFA rankings, a former manager and leading light of the current squad believe qualification for the Euro 16 finals in France will be just reward for a golden generation.
Wales are top of Group B, undefeated on 14 points after six games, having recently beaten Belgium and set to advance to their first ever appearance in the European Championships with home ties against Israel and Andorra still to come.
For Mark Hughes, who coached the side for five years and narrowly missed out on a place at the Euro 2004 finals, a squad that includes Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Liverpool’s Joe Allen in its midfield was always likely to succeed.
“As a Welshman, I am absolutely delighted with the progress (manager) Chris Coleman has been able to impart on the group,” Stoke City manager Hughes told reporters in Singapore on Friday.
“It’s a good generation of Welsh players, many of whom are competing at the very highest level.
“There’s always been good Welsh players in the past and good groups but never really with the strength and depth that you need,” he added.
“When you get a group that’s predominantly playing at the highest level, then you have got a chance and that’s the case with this squad, so it’s no coincidence that they are now playing well against some of the top teams.”
Hughes, whose Stoke side will play a Singapore Select XI in the consolation game at the Premier League Asia Trophy on Saturday, also believes that Wales must make sure they maintain their high ranking to get easier qualifying draws in the future.
“The fact remains that if they can maintain their position in the rankings, then that gives them the opportunity to be seeded for the World Cup draw,” he added.
“That makes it easier if you are one of the two teams that have a realistic chance of qualifying. If they can be a top seed then that will help the process.”
Arsenal’s Ramsey, also in Singapore for the biennial pre-season tournament, expressed his pride over what Wales have been able to achieve and is confident the side will be among the 24 finalists in France next year.
“For a small country like us, it is not an easy thing to have done and to possibly be the first Welsh team to qualify for the Euros would be amazing and we are just really proud that we are now 10th in the FIFA rankings,” the 24-year-old said.
“But there are still a few games left that we need to win to secure our qualification but we have a great group that is hard to break down, with a great team spirit.
“We are looking forward to our next games and hope to qualify for France.”
[“source – dnaindia.com”]