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Wales turn to next ‘accomplishment’ after World Cup exit

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Connor Roberts says Wales can use their painful World Cup experience in Qatar to qualify from the group stages of the tournament one day.

Wales’ first World Cup appearance in 64 years ultimately ended in disappointment as they finished bottom of Group B with just one point from three games.

It was the first time Wales had failed to reach the knockout stage in four major tournament appearances.

Wales reached the 1958 World Cup quarter-finals, the Euro 2016 semi-finals and the Euro 2020 round of 16.

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Roberts said: “We have a lot of different emotions. In the dressing room, we’re a little disappointed with our performances and where they’ve taken us in this competition.

“But it is a great achievement for us to be here. So I think when we look back we’ll realize that.

“The next milestone and achievement for the Wales men’s team is to get out of a group at a World Cup, whenever possible.

“Maybe we have to wait a while, or maybe we don’t have to wait too long. But that’s the next goal, and it’s good that football moves fast.”

Wales’ campaign unraveled after a second-half comeback earned them a 1-1 draw in their opener against the United States.

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Gareth Bale’s late penalty seemed to have kickstarted the competition for the following games against Iran and England.

But there was to be no fairy tale ending in Doha, as goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off and Iran scored twice in stoppage time to leave Wales staring.

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England then edged Wales past three second-half goals when injured captain Bale was unable to come off for the second period with a hamstring problem.

Burnley defender Roberts said: “Everyone looked at the group and thought: ‘Maybe they’ll do this or that’, but we played against three very good teams.

“I know that England destroyed Iran, but they are not fools and they showed it against us. There were patches where we showed what it was all about, but they were very few and far between.

“It’s a bit disappointing, but for many of the players, myself included, I’m delighted to be able to say that I represented my country at a World Cup.”

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Bale, now 33, has insisted he will continue to play for Wales in the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers, due to start in March.

Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, two other surviving members of the ‘Golden Generation’ that shone at Euro 2016, are also 30 and have dealt with injuries ahead of the World Cup.

Roberts said: “I know there are a lot of players on the right side of the 30s as well and there is a lot of talent on this team.

“Things are moving quickly and we move on to March. We have a lot of young players who can learn from this experience and hopefully take it to the Euro in March.

“Young players need to learn from this and we’re going again in March.”

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