After missing out on major tournament football for nearly six decades, Wales have now qualified for successive finals after reaching Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Hungary.
On what was a crucial night in Cardiff – with the fear of missed opportunities against Romania in 1994 and Russia 10 years later palpable in the air – Wales settled early nerves when talisman Aaron Ramsey put them ahead. He was left all alone in the box and, from a perfect Gareth Bale cross, he nodded Ryan Giggs’ side in front.
It ignited the Dragons who looked confident, even though Hungary had more possession. An early goal after the interval sent home spirits soaring once more – and it was Ramsey once again, collecting Kieffer Moore’s flick and giving Peter Gulacsi no chance.
Thereafter Wales played with swagger as they looked to kill Hungary off, who were forced to come out and play in search of a way back.
Ramsey was denied a hat-trick by a brilliant block but he had done enough. Wales are through to back-to-back European Championships after 58 previous years in the darkness.
Here is how Giggs’ men rated:
🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴🏴#TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/XYuCm0NAGy— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 19, 2019
Wayne Hennessey 7: A pivotal double save proved crucial at 1-0. First he acrobatically thrust a left hand out to deny Adam Szalai’s well-struck shot, before blocking Roland Sallai’s follow-up on the line and gathering the rebound.
Connor Roberts 7: Linked well down the right with Bale and Allen as Wales marched forward. Diligence in defence too (three clearances and three interceptions) means record caps holder Chris Gunter won’t be earning many more than his 96.
Tom Lockyer 6: One of the new wave, inexperienced and winning only his ninth cap alongside Mepham. But relished the workload as Hungary pumped the Welsh box, winning three aerials and making five clearances.
Chris Mepham 6: Looks increasingly comfortable at heart of Welsh defence. Nervous moment when he leant into an opponent in penalty area and needlessly conceded a corner, but was a colossus with eight clearances.
Ben Davies 7: Another vital player for his country, Mr Versatile slotted in at left-back and showed attacking intent, evidenced by his three key passes. And was defensively sound.
Joe Morrell 6: Only his fourth cap and preferred to Ampadu, the 22-year-old didn’t seem overawed. Busy first half, sacrificed after second goal.
Joe Allen 8: Bale and Ramsey get a lot of the plaudits but Allen is the third musketeer. Passing range can pull defences all over the field while terrific workrate and tenascioius tackling typifies Wales. Won five tackles and made seven interceptions.
Gareth Bale 8: Gave left-back Zsolt Nagy problems all night, jinking past him to deliver a pinpoint cross that Ramsey gleefully headed in. One of three key passes and made five tackles. Roamed the right channel menacingly and looked like he was enjoying the occasion.
Aaron Ramsey 9: Cometh the hour, cometh the man. A stuttering season stalled by injury, yet he is Wales’ man for all occasions. Header was clinical, his second goal unerringly cool. Always threatening, disappointingly denied a hat-trick.
Daniel James 7: Bright and lively and Hungary’s defences were petrified of his pace. Flitted from left to right but lacked cutting edge. Came alive in second half as Wales grew in confidence and Hungary had to open up.
Kieffer Moore 7: Didn’t add to his two goals in just three caps, but posed problems for visitors with his awkward physicality – winning a scarcely believable eight fouls. His flick set up Ramsey’s second, though he knew little about it. Won 12 aerials.
Ethan Ampadu 7: Not often a 19-year-old comes on to calm things down in a tempestuous environment, but such is the poise of the Chelsea loanee and trust placed in him. Tenacity saw him win three tackles.
Harry Wilson N/A: Would have felt aggrieved at not starting having shone and scored in Baku. But he’ll have a bigger role next summer.