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Wales in dreamland with first qualification

His team having never before qualified for a EURO, Chris Coleman described it as "an absolute dream – it means everything" after Wales secured progress from Group B.

Wales players celebrate qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016
Wales players celebrate qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016 ©Getty Images

Wales had never before qualified for a UEFA European Championship – their most significant achievement being to reach the quarter-finals of the 1976 edition, when the tournament was still a four-team event – but the principality put that right in style in the UEFA EURO 2016 competition.

Chris Coleman's side remained unbeaten in their first eight Group B games, although by a strange quirk of fate it was after their first defeat – in Bosnia and Herzegovina in their penultimate fixture – that they found they had booked their place in France. If a 2-1 opening success in Andorra got Wales off to a winning, though slightly edgy start, subsequent victories in Israel and at home to Belgium were crucial, Gareth Bale proving a talismanic figure with six of his team's nine goals.

Chris Coleman, Wales manager
I thought we did enough to get something out of the game, but we were gutted coming off. We didn't know what the other result was, but now we do – and wow!

I can't explain to you what it means, but it means everything. It's been an absolute dream, an absolute dream. We've all dreamed about this. We've had a lot of disappointments – we've nearly got there, nearly got there, and haven't delivered. Now we have delivered.

Watch Gareth Bale's best goals
Watch Gareth Bale's best goals

Gareth Bale, Wales midfielder
It's probably the best loss of my life! It was a difficult game, but what matters is who qualified – and we've done it. This is right up there, it was one of my dreams. As a schoolboy everyone dreams of playing in a major tournament, and it's a dream come true – but it doesn't stop here. We've still got to do some business in France.

If we lose the ball we fight hard to get it back – we've fought deep and hard all qualification and this is what happens when you do that. It's nice to be able to test ourselves in the biggest tournaments in the world – and now we can do that.

Aaron Ramsey, Wales midfielder
What a great moment for Welsh football. What an achievement for these players – it's making history. We're finally going to a major tournament. It's not going to sink in for a while but I'm so proud. We're finally going! This group of players is quite special, their togetherness – we're really difficult to beat and we're looking forward to going to a major tournament.

This has been a dream of mine, to try and get Wales to a major finals, and we're finally going. We're only a small nation and we're over the moon. Thank you to all the supporters and everyone who's backed us. We're finally there – see you in France!

Key stats
 Best result: have never qualified
 Coach: Chris Coleman
 Leading scorers: all-time – Ian Rush (28); current – Gareth Bale (18)
 Most appearances: all-time – Neville Southall (92); current – Chris Gunter (62)

Record EURO appearances
 Overall: Gary Speed (28)
 Final tournament: none

Record EURO goals
 Overall: Gareth Bale (11)
 Final tournament: none