Gareth Bale said reaching the World Cup with Wales represents the “final piece of the jigsaw” after they edged out Ukraine to qualify for the competition finals for the first time since 1958.
The Wales manager, Robert Page, who reserved special praise for the “world-class” performance of his goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, said he is looking forward to a mouthwatering Group B match-up against England in Qatar and dedicated victory to the late Gary Speed. Page said the jubilant scenes in the dressing room after the game were incredible and praised the spirit of his squad.
“Gary Speed started this, 12 or 13 years ago,” Page said. “I want to dedicate that to Gary as well. He started the culture. There was a difference, there was a change in the environment. I’ve inherited that. Chris Coleman took it on to another level. We’re just confident going into games now. We don’t hope to qualify for the Euros or a World Cup now, we believe we can do it, so there has been a massive change in the mentality.”
Of Hennessey, Page said: “I thought he was magnificent, world class, absolutely. I pulled Wardy [Danny Ward] in and showed him that respect to tell him I was starting Wayne. It was purely down to the fact that he played in the semi-final, didn’t let us down and it would have been harsh to drop him. There was no way I was going to leave him out. He delivered like we know he can do. I thought he went to another level. I thought his performance was outstanding.”