‘You have to pinch yourself’ – Aaron Ramsey relishing Wales’ World Cup challenge
Aaron Ramsey admits he is having to pinch himself ahead of Wales’ first World Cup campaign since 1958.
While it is five months since Wales secured qualification following an emotion-charged victory over Ukraine, departure day for Qatar topped up excitement levels and underlined that the dream is now reality.
More than a third of Ramsey’s 75 Wales caps have been won in World Cup qualifying games during a 14-year international career.
Now, though, he will finally perform on football’s biggest stage, emulating star performers of 64 years ago such as John Charles, Ivor Allchurch and Cliff Jones.
“It’s absolutely huge, and for us to achieve it is amazing,” midfielder Ramsey said.
“You can feel the buzz around the place, and hopefully we can go out there and give a good account of ourselves.
“All these great teams we’ve had in the past, all these great players, they’ve come so close, but to actually do it, this has been many years in the making.
“We have come such a long way. Now for it to be a reality, now it is starting to really strike home that we are less than a week away.
“You have to pinch yourself. It’s brilliant for us as a country.
“I am certainly looking forward to it. it might be similar to the Euros (2016) when we first walked out. It is going to be really special.
“The spirit and togetherness we have is part of the reason for our success. We are a very tightly-knit team, and I think that is evident in the way we play.”
Raring to go
Wales face the United States in their World Cup opener on Monday, and Ramsey arrives in the tournament fully fit and raring to go.
“For me, it has just been focusing on taking every game as it comes and making sure I am doing the right things and ticking things off as the weeks go by,” added Ramsey, who joined French club Nice from Juventus in August.
“I am feeling good. The staff in Nice have been brilliant, and I’ve got a couple of people I work with on the side as well.
“I have played quite a few minutes, and there were a lot of positives to going there.
“It is a great project to be a part of, playing at the highest level and playing in Europe. It felt like that was the best place for me to be at this time.”
Wales’ last two experiences of major championships saw them reach the knockout phase each time, including a semi-final appearance at Euro 2016.
The top two from a World Cup group that also includes England and Iran will qualify for the round of 16 in Qatar.
“We are just going to concentrate on the first game, but we want to get out of our group,” Ramsey said.
“In knockout football anything can happen, as we all know. The first game is massively important.”
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