Wales youngsters dream of World Cup as much as ‘golden generation’

Wales youngsters dream of World Cup as much as ‘golden generation’

by Emily Smith
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Neco Williams made his Wales debut in a Nations League win over Finland in September 2020Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Thursday, 24 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMTCoverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights BBC Two Wales from 23:15 GMT and later on demandLiverpool defender Neco Williams says Wales’ young players are just as desperate to qualify for a World Cup as the country’s ‘golden generation’.

Wales host Austria in a play-off semi-final on Thursday, with the winners to face Scotland or Ukraine in the final.

Key players such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen – all in their 30s – have said this could be their last chance to qualify for a World Cup.

“You think about it all the time,” said Williams, 20, who is on loan at Fulham.

“As players you always want to play in the biggest of tournaments and on the biggest stages.

“Just as much as the older senior lads want to qualify, it’s exactly the same for us younger lads.

“We’re all in the same boat, we all want to qualify and it would mean everything to us.”

Wales hopeful Bale will be fit to face AustriaEx-Wrexham keeper Bachmann aims to shatter Wales’ dreamsBale, Ramsey and Allen have played important roles in the most successful era in Wales’ history, helping their country qualify for back-to-back European Championships.

All three were integral to their run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals – the furthest Wales have been at a major competition – with Ramsey and Allen named in Uefa’s team of the tournament.

That was only Wales’ second appearance at a major finals and their first since the 1958 World Cup, which remains the only time they have qualified for the competition.

‘I feel I’m in the best possible shape’ – WilliamsAt the start of Wales’ qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup a year ago, Bale said: “It might be the last time our generation has the chance to qualify for a World Cup.”

The captain will be approaching his 37th birthday when the 2026 World Cup starts, while Ramsey and Allen will be 35 and 36 respectively.

All three are in the Wales squad for Thursday’s play-off semi-final against Austria.

“It’s massive. It’s been a long wait, a long time since Wales qualified for a World Cup,” said Williams.

“I’m sure the whole of Wales is looking forward to it. If we win that, then we’re one step closer to the World Cup.

“We’ve got players who’ve played in massive games and this will come close to any of those.

“It would mean everything. I know the whole Welsh nation is supporting us, all the fans around Wales are with us and I know the atmosphere is going to be incredible.”

The winner of Wales and Austria’s semi-final had been due to face the winner of Scotland against Ukraine on 29 March but, because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that game has been postponed.

Scotland and Ukraine’s fixture is now expected to be played in June, with the play-off final set to follow in the same month.

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