After close to 60 years without visiting a major tournament, Wales are back in the big time after qualifying for their first-ever European Championship and second major tournament since qualifying for the World Cup in 1958.
They may have only qualified for that fabled tournament thanks to Middle Eastern politics and a two-legged play-off against Israel, but former manager Jimmy Murphy and the golden boys of Welsh football took Brazil the distance in the quarter-finals before losing John Charles to injury and letting a 17-year-old Pelé score the winner in a 1-0 affair.
It's an emotional debut for Wales at the European Championships after years of heartbreak that included a loss to Russia in the 2004 play-offs that was further compounded by the positive tests for doping in Russian midfielder Yegor Titov and lack of retrospective action from FIFA. Welsh greats such as the late Gary Speed, Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs never saw a major tournament with their country, but as was the case in qualifying, the world's most expensive player Gareth Bale will play an integral role in bringing hope and success back to Wales after more than half a century of insignificance.
Many Wales supporters will be happy with the fact they were drawn in Group B that will include a high-energy clash with rivals England on June 16 in Lens. Despite a tough group that includes Russia and Slovakia, Wales have a good enough chance as anyone to get through the groups, or even go on to win the whole thing according to Leicester City midfielder Andy King.
King's role at this year's Euros looks to be one of support from the bench or filling in for injury for the projected midfielder trio of Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Joe Ledley. Wales' fitness was a problem for manager Chris Coleman ahead of their final friendly against Sweden before travelling to France, but he'll be happy his squad isn't even more worse for wear after the 3-0 loss. Coleman started Bale on the bench and rested Joe Allen and Ledley, who's recovering from a broken leg that he suffered back in May playing for Crystal Palace and is expected to return to action for Wales in their opener on June 11 against Slovakia in Bordeaux. If any three of those midfielders take a knock, expect King to jump right into the action.
A 3-4-2-1 was successful for Wales in qualifying, who finished behind Belgium for second in Group B with 21 points (6W, 3D, 1L), but a recent change to five at the back seems to be the preferred change for Wales heading into the Euros. The combo of Ramsey, Ledley and Allen are the consensus picks to start in the midfield behind Hal Robson-Kanu and Gareth Bale. A counter-attacking mindset with speed up front while being resilient at the back with five defenders could annoy teams like England who could put themselves in an awkward position after stretching their boundaries forward and on the wings as they look to press on the offensive.
What immediately catches the eye about this Wales team is the large discrepancy between the teams of players selected. You have a guy like Bale who just came off playing a full 120 minutes in the Champions League final for Real Madrid and Milton Keynes Dons striker Simon Church, who had to move to Aberdeen due to limited first-team opportunities in the Championship with the relegated side. If there were ever a sign of how reliant Wales are of their star striker, this would be it.
Gorau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae... here's the Wales Squad for #EURO2016. #TogetherStrongerhttps://t.co/YqUkQWcAKW— Wales (@FAWales) May 31, 2016
It's hard to imagine where this team would be without Bale, who scored seven goals and set up two in qualifying to give Wales their return to a major tournament. It's easy to call Wales a one-man team and that's probably a fair assessment, but they have the players behind him to become a significant threat and possibly turn some heads in a group where the clear favorites are England and Russia. Don't count them out of making a run at the top spots in the group, and with that extra third-place spot Coleman's side could find themselves going deeper than anyone could expect in France.
Full Wales 23-Man Roster for Euro 2016:
Goalkeepers (3): Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Owain Fon Williams.
Defenders (7): Chris Gunter, James Chester, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Neil Taylor, James Collins, Jazz Richards.
Midfielders (8): Joe Allen, Joe Ledley, Aaron Ramsey, Andy King, David Edwards, Jonny Williams, David Vaughan, George Williams.
Forwards (5): Gareth Bale, Hal Robson-Kanu, Sam Vokes, Simon Church, David Cotterill.