EURO STAR: Swansea City and Wales defender Neil Taylor
11th June 2016
The long wait is over. A 58-year wait to be exact.
Welsh football fans have not seen their nation in a major tournament since John Charles, Ivor Allchurch, Cliff Jones, Mel Charles and Terry Medwin helped Jimmy Murphy's side reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1958.
For those born after that, it has been a long, long wait to see Wales at a big competition.
No more picking "other" teams to support during World Cup and European Championships - Wales are, at last, in the tournament themselves.
The heartache of losing World Cup qualifiers to Scotland in 1977 and 1985; losing the final two group matches to miss out on Euro '88; defeat to Romania five years later and, more recently, an agonising Euro play-off loss to Russia in 2003.
Welsh football fans have endured far more heartache than joy.
Today, all those painful memories will drift further in the distance when Wales take on Slovakia in their opening game at Euro 2016.
For players and fans alike, it is a day that has been counted down ever since Wales booked their place in France.
Best result: never previously qualified
Coach: Chris Coleman
Leading scorers: all-time - Ian Rush (28); current - Gareth Bale (19)
Most appearances: all-time - Neville Southall (92); current - Chris Gunter (64)
Association formed: 1876
Nickname: Dreigiau (Dragons)
Where they play: Cardiff City Stadium; Millennium Stadium
Overall: P 104; W 41; D 21; L 42; F 125; A 133
Final tournament: First appearance
Euro 2016 fixtures
Saturday, June 11, 5pm (Bordeaux): Wales v Slovakia - Group B
Thursday, June 16, 2pm (Lens): England v Wales - Group B
Monday, June 20, 8pm (Toulouse): Russia v Wales - Group B
"I can't wait for it," beamed Swans defender Neil Taylor. "We are really looking forward to it as a nation.
"It's difficult to guess what it will feel like, but when I played at the Olympics I got a feel for what that tournament atmosphere is like. It's going to be unbelievable and I'm sure the whole of France will be buzzing.
"As a nation, it's not something we've done for a long time, so it will be exciting.
"Everyone's talking about it, and it will be nice if we can put some smiles on faces, which, as footballers, is what we want to do."
Chris Coleman's side face Slovakia today before a mouthwatering clash with England next Thursday, while the group fixtures conclude with a tough test against Russia - the team that ended Wales' hopes of booking their place at Euro 2004.
"That first game is crucial against Slovakia," added Taylor. "If we can pick up a good result there it will be great and can take a lot of pressure off the England game.
"We have got high hopes. We are not being too optimistic, but we are definitely not going to be pessimistic.
"The easiest thing to do in football is be pessimistic and play things down and say it is not going to go well; but we are there, why not play it up as much as we can?
"If you had asked Leicester if they were there to make up the numbers in the Premier League this year, they have proved everybody wrong.
"We can use that fight and spirit and when you look at them, they have the same sort of team spirit we have with Wales.
"We work for each other and we know we are going to give everything on the pitch and hopefully on the day that gets the right result."
READ MORE. . .