Wales wrapped up their unforgettable UEFA 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Andorra inside a jubilant Cardiff City Stadium after finishing runners-up in Group B.
Having already booked their tickets to France for their first taste of major tournament football since the 1958 World Cup next summer, the Dragons bagged their sixth win in ten games thanks to goals from Aaron Ramsey and the evergreen Gareth Bale.
However it took Chris Coleman’s side until five minutes after the interval to eventually break the deadlock, with Arsenal midfielder Ramsey latching onto a rebound after Ashley Williams’s header was well saved by Ferran Pol in the visiting goal.
Real Madrid ace Bale then delivered the killer blow with just minutes to spare in Cardiff by netting his seventh goal of the campaign to consign rock-bottom Andorra to their tenth straight defeat on the bounce.
Despite Wales’ best of efforts; last night’s three points weren’t enough for the hosts to top Group B after leaders Belgium managed to fend off Israel 3-1 in Brussels, although that didn’t spoil the historic party celebrations come the final whistle.
After guiding Wales to their first major tournament in 57 years, national team coach Coleman said: “These supporters have been absolutely incredible.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I played for Wales for some time, managing for some time, but the support we’ve had this campaign – home and away – has been absolutely fantastic.
“They’ve helped us get over the line.”
Elsewhere in Group B; goals from Dries Mertens, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard helped Belgium seal top spot after their 3-1 victory over Israel, meanwhile Bosnia-Herzegovina advance to the play-offs after winning 3-2 away to Cyprus.
The other big news from Tuesday night saw the Netherlands failed to reach next year’s Euro finals for the first time since 1984 after slumping to a thoroughly disappointing fourth-placed finish in Group A.
The Oranje lost out 3-2 to leaders Czech Republic inside the Amsterdam Arena, despite the best of efforts from strike duo Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie, meaning Danny Blind’s side couldn’t rescue a play-off place on the final day.
Even a win for the Netherlands wouldn’t have been enough in the end as third-placed Turkey fought off already qualified Iceland 1-0 thanks to Selcuk Inan’s last-gasp winner in Konya, meaning Fatih Terim’s men advance automatically to the finals after becoming the highest ranked third-placed team out of all nine groups.
“As a country we really needed this win to feel happy, even for a few hours maybe,” said Terim.
“We are so happy to have offered some happiness to our people.”
The other result from Group A saw Kazakhstan consign Latvia to rock-bottom during the final round of fixtures after Islambek Kuat’s only goal of the game was enough to give the visitors their first win of the campaign.
Into Group H and Croatia clinched the final automatic spot after narrowly beating Malta 1-0 in Ta’ Qali thanks to Ivan Perisic’s first-half effort.
Meanwhile Southampton striker Graziano Pelle broke Norway hearts after group winners Italy came from behind to defeat Norway 2-1 and restrict the visitors to a play-off place.
The Scandinavians were ahead for the majority of the game thanks to Norwich City midfielder Alex Tettey’s 23rd minute half-volley, only for strikes from Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi and Saints star Pelle in the final 17 minutes sealed top spot for the hosts in Rome.
And finally, the other Group H fixture saw fourth-placed Bulgaria comfortably see off second-bottom Azerbaijan 2-0 thanks to efforts from Mihail Aleksandrov and Dimitar Rangelov either side of the break.