Wales manager Chris Coleman went from despair to elation in a matter of seconds as his country finally ended their 57-year wait to reach a major tournament despite a 2-0 defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday.
When the final whistle blew in Zenica, Coleman thought Wales' first defeat of the qualifying campaign meant he would have to wait until the last Group B fixture on Tuesday to seal qualification for UEFA EURO 2016. But moments later he was informed that Israel had suffered a shock home defeat against Cyprus that guaranteed Wales will play at an elite event for the first time since the 1958 FIFA World Cup™.
Coleman, a former Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry City boss, has endured some dark days in the Wales job since taking over from Gary Speed following his predecessor's death four years ago. The 45-year-old thought of quitting three years ago when Wales started the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifying campaign with a 6-1 thrashing in Serbia.
But he gradually steadied the ship, aided by Gareth Bale's transformation from gifted youngster into world-class superstar, and the end result is Wales' revival after decades in the doldrums. "When I took the job I was in a sticky situation. Gary Speed was such a great man and a great presence that I wanted to carry on his work. But I couldn't," Coleman said. "So I decided to do my own thing and it has been a fantastic campaign. Gary Speed played his part and I'm sure he is smiling tonight."
While Bale's sublime form for Wales rightly earns most of the headlines, the dynamic displays of unselfish Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey have made him the ideal foil for the Real Madrid forward. And Ramsey admitted it was a dream come true to help Wales back to the big time. "What a great moment for Welsh football. What an achievement to have made history, we are finally going to a major tournament," Ramsey said.
"It's not going to sink in for a while, I'm so proud. This group of players is quite special. It didn't quite happen tonight, but the togetherness, we've been really hard to beat. This has been a dream of mine, I know for the others it's been the same. We're only a small nation, but we've done it."
Wales captain Ashley Williams added: "I said at the start of the campaign that qualifying would be my proudest moment and it definitely is. Because the game was how it was it'll take a bit of time to sink in, but everyone is over the moon."