Wales manager Chris Coleman said his players could now embrace their tag of being a ‘golden generation’ after qualifying for Euro 2016.
With their place in France already confirmed, Wales rounded off the campaign with a 2-0 win over Andorra.
Fittingly it was two of their brightest stars, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, who struck against the Group B minnows.
“They were labelled the ‘golden generation’ before they’d earned it. Now they’ve earned it,” said Coleman.
“They deserve it. You get team spirit from working hard for each other on the pitch and coming through tough situations and big challenges, and they’ve done it time after time.”
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Despite a 2-0 loss in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday, Wales’ place at Euro 2016 was confirmed that night when Cyprus beat Israel.
Cardiff City Stadium had seen 34,000 supporters packed inside on Tuesday to cheer the players who have delivered Wales’ first appearance at a major finals since the 1958 World Cup.
Coleman in turn was quick to praise the fans, who he said have played their part in his side’s success.
“These supporters have been absolutely incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Coleman said.
“I played for Wales for some time and been managing for some time, but the support we’ve had this campaign – home and away – has been absolutely fantastic.
“In some games we’ve struggled a little bit, we’ve hung on, and these guys have got us over the line so I’m so happy for them.”
While the likes of Real Madrid star Bale and Arsenal midfielder Ramsey more often attract the headlines for Wales, Coleman picked out his captain Ashley Williams for his contribution from centre-back.
“He’s been brilliant on and off the pitch, a true leader and I think you need that if you’re going to be successful,” Coleman added.
“When we’ve really needed him, especially in the big games where we’ve been under the cosh, he’s come up trumps for us.
“He’s fantastic and he deserves everything that’s coming to him.”
Bale’s late strike to put some gloss on the scoreline against Andorra was his seventh goal of a campaign that began with his brace away to the same opposition in September 2014.
“We’ve put the hard work in for years and years and this is what we’ve worked hard for,” he told Sky Sports.
“It’s time to enjoy it, but as soon as France comes round we’ll be looking to make an impact.
“It’s something special. The fans, what can I say? We have the best fans in the world. Obviously a great thanks to the gaffer (Coleman) and everybody involved. We’re looking forward to the future.”
Swansea defender Williams was also quick to praise the home fans: “It’s overwhelming.
“We wanted to get to this game so we could say thank you to the fans for all the support they gave us over the campaign.
“It was a nice game to play as the last one and we won it and we’ll enjoy the celebrations.”
Success built on firm foundations
The father of the late Gary Speed, Roger, paid tribute to his son who managed Wales before Coleman: “I was in tears for the last match here when the Barry Horns – the group – started singing Gary’s favourite song ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’. I just broke down.
“The fans are [singing] not just about Gary; if you can’t win a game with support like that there’s something wrong.
“I watched the Bosnia game with a mate where we live and really, really enjoyed it and couldn’t believe it when the score came through from the other match [Israel 1-2 Cyprus] – fantastic!
“The last time [Wales qualified] it was 1958 and Gary played 85 times – what a coincidence that is.
“There’s a good omen there and I think we’ll have a great competition, definitely.
“Everybody should be backing Chris Coleman, he’s down a great job. Gary was doing well, Chris carried it on.”