“Let’s show the world what Wales is really about”
|Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listings – Full coverage details|
Wales are in a strange position over the next few days because we’re not out of the World Cup for good yet, but we know we really are.
To be realistic, we have to forget about making the last 16 because our chances are very slim. Instead, our focus should change to leave this World Cup at a high level.
That’s the mindset I would have as a player in that situation and then if by some miracle we stay in the tournament, the celebrations would be incredible.
So we have to get up for this last game in Group B and obviously it helps a lot that we play England on Tuesday.
It’s a massive occasion in any situation, but especially because it’s the first time we’ve met at a World Cup.
We haven’t beaten them since 1984, so if we win, whoever scores will probably be a hero for life in Wales.
“England are always favorites against Wales”
Nobody will give us a chance against England and I know the feeling. I played them three times with Wales, and they were favorites each time.
In 2011, when we faced each other home and away in the same qualifying group for Euro 2012, we felt like huge underdogs. It was a little brother vs. big brother scenario, and our feeling was “we’ll see what we can get.”
And, at Wembley, we almost achieved something. Rob Earnshaw had a great chance to get us a point at the end but he shot over the bar.
When we played them next, at Euro 2016, it was different. I was captain and we got nailed for that, I can assure you.
We went 1-0 up with a Gareth Bale free-kick and even when England equalized early in the second half, it was us who drove the win.
We felt we might as well get it, and then we were hit with a stinger right at the end when Daniel Sturridge scored his stoppage-time winner.
At no time, however, did we feel like we had no chance and it will be the same with this team, despite their disappointing performances so far in Qatar.
The difference six years ago was that we had pretty much a full squad of Premier League players, all playing regularly.
And we also had two special players in Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. Gaz was one of the three best players in the world at the time, no doubt, but Ramsey was also sensational for us in France.
Neither has been at that level here, unfortunately. It’s not for lack of effort, but I’m sure Gaz would admit that these two games haven’t been his best.
It’s the same with Aaron. He’s worked hard in both games, but it hasn’t happened to him when he’s got the ball like we’re used to seeing.
This time, against England, we may need someone else to step up. I’d love for Brennan Johnson to get a goal and make a name for himself at the start of his Wales career, but whoever manages it will go down in Welsh folklore.
“We don’t want to leave under a cloud”
It’s hard to be a leader when you’re hurting inside yourself, but if I were Wales captain now, I’d do everything I could to get through Iran’s game and also to get everyone else’s heads right.
My message to the other players would be simple: if we go home in a few days, we don’t want to leave under the cloud of what happened against Iran. Let’s dig deeper and show the world what Wales really is, which is what we came here to do.
I can imagine that Friday was one of the worst days for everyone connected to the team. I know it was awful for the fans, but it’s magnified 100 times when you’re in camp.
The players will have had a difficult few hours, but they still have another game and another chance to change the mood and the way this tournament will be remembered.
“I’m sure Wales can change that”
We can’t complain about where we are in Group B. We’re at the bottom because we haven’t, and haven’t, done ourselves justice.
Iran’s defeat was the first time in a long time that questions were asked about this team. Now is the time for them to show what they are made of and dig deep.
They did it against Austria and Ukraine to get us here, and many times when I was with them too.
I’m good mates with most of them. I know their characters and mentality and I know they can change this.
I’m not talking about reaching the last 16, because that has already happened. We don’t even have to beat England, we just have to put on a performance for the traveling fans and everyone at home.
So there’s still a lot to play for from our perspective and it would be the same even if we were absolutely sure we’d get home.
Ashley Williams was talking to Chris Bevan in Doha.
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