It was more than a game in the Cardiff City Stadium tonight – it was a party, it was a celebration and it was a chance for the capacity crowd to thank the players for their efforts and celebrate their historic campaign.
The pre-match celebrations were kicked-off by the legendary Super Furry Animals and as they sang Rings Around the World, many Welsh fans were surely dreaming of drawing rings all across France next summer.
The crowd rose as one for the team’s anthem before kick-off… Zombie Nation, of course! The song, which has turned into the unlikely unofficial anthem of the campaign, was sung countless times during the game.
Wales’s early efforts were little more than half chances with Gareth Bale looking threatening before Hal Robson-Kanu was forced off with an early injury.
Two Welsh penalty claims were turned down by the Dutch referee and despite constant pressure and countless corner kicks for Wales, it was 0-0 at half time.
After the first half finished on a rather flat note, the second half started on fire with Aaron Ramsey netting within six minutes of the restart. Ashley Williams headed Bale’s clever cross straight at the keeper but Ramsey was in the right place to tuck the ball home from six yards.
Wales’s play was suddenly full of confidence and Ramsey had another great chance soon after but missed the target following a mazy dribble, before Sam Vokes could only react tamely to another good header from Williams.
The second goal arrived on 86 minutes when Bale finally got his just reward – Ben Davies’s cross reaching Bale on the penalty spot and the Real Madrid star calmly dispatched a left-footed shot for his 19th international goal.
It was a comfortable victory for Wales and Chris Coleman will be happy with many of the team’s performances, especially by the standout Ramsey and young substitute Tom Lawrence.
With the most successful campaign in Welsh footballing history at an end, the stadium remained packed for the post-match celebrations as every member of the team was presented to the elated crowd.
This might have been the end of the qualifying campaign, but the party and the road to France are only about to start.