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Jonny Williams and Wales ready for ‘massive’ World Cup opportunity

Jonny Williams says Wales are determined to qualify for the World Cup later this year (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)
Jonny Williams says Wales are determined to qualify for the World Cup later this year (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Jonny Williams says Wales are ready to capitalise on their “massive opportunity” and end a 64-year wait to play at a World Cup.

Wales discovered their play-off final opponents in Cardiff on Wednesday night when Ukraine beat Scotland 3-1 at Hampden Park.

The eyes of the world will be on Ukraine to see if their footballers can bring joy to a nation engulfed in war since Russia’s invasion in February.

Scotland v Ukraine – FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier – Play Off – Semi Final – Hampden Park
Ukraine players celebrate their 3-1 victory in Scotland on Wednesday and will now play Wales for a place at the 2022 World Cup (Andrew Milligan/PA)

But Sunday’s showdown sees Wales one win from making only their second appearance at a World Cup, John Charles and company having reached the quarter-finals in Sweden in 1958.

“Every player in the dressing room knows what it means to the country,” said Williams, one of only eight players to have featured in Wales’ 2016 and 2020 European Championship squads.

“It’s a huge game, we’re at home and it’s a massive opportunity to go and do something that hasn’t been achieved in many years.

“To go to two Euros was a dream, but a World Cup is the pinnacle.

Poland v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Wroclaw Stadium
Skipper Gareth Bale, second left, Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey were rested for Wales’ 2-1 Nations League defeat in Poland on Wednesday (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

“We’ve given ourselves the chance of doing that with a very strong side in front of a home crowd.”

Williams was on target as Wales were beaten 2-1 by Poland in their Nations League opener on Wednesday.

The Swindon midfielder opened the scoring for a second-string Wales side in Wroclaw.

Boss Robert Page had rested the likes of skipper Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen ahead of Sunday, and Wales were punished in the closing stages by World Cup-bound Poland.

Substitutes Jakub Kaminski and Karol Swiderski struck as Wales’ nine-game unbeaten run stretching back to last summer came to an end.

“Our biggest strength as a team and as a nation is our togetherness,” said midfielder Joe Morrell.

“Whatever team goes out there on Sunday is going to be 110 per cent ready.

“I didn’t grow up dreaming of going to a World Cup, and I would imagine any Welsh lad is the same.

Poland v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Wroclaw Stadium
Joe Morrell, left, says World Cup qualification will inspire the next generation of Welsh footballers (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

“But hopefully it will create a knock-on effect and there are 10-year-olds out there now thinking ‘we can go the World Cup’.

“I’ve heard the stories of ’58 and the last time we got there – it’s a hell of a long time ago.

“You hear stories of the great players of the past. It’s a chance to put ourselves in the same category.

“We’ve shown we can mix it with anyone in the world, and hopefully we’ll get the chance to do that on stage of the biggest tournament.”