It was back in 2004 that John Toshack began his second spell as Cymru manager and began a project to bring through the next generation of players.

The appointment of Brian Flynn to oversee the intermediate teams during his tenure proved to be an inspired decision.

Over the course of the next six years, players such as Chris Gunter, Aaron Ramsey, Sam Vokes, Wayne Hennessey, Jack Collison, Andy King, Neil Taylor, Joe Allen, Gareth Bale and other familiar names all emerged through the ranks, culminating in a dramatic two-legged play-off against England for a place at the finals of the 2009 UEFA U21 EURO Championships that were held in Sweden.

Despite being drawn in a tough qualifying group alongside France, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as minnows Malta, Cymru finished as group winners with a convincing 3-0 victory away to Romania on the final day. Winning six of their eight group games, Flynn's side edged above France to set-up the highly-anticipated double-header against England.

The qualifying campaign began with a 1-0 defeat to France in September 2007, an own goal from Neil Eardley separating the two teams in Grenoble. However, respective 3-1 and 4-0 home victories over Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina later in the year put the side in confident mood as France prepared to visit Ninian Park in November that year.

A hat-trick from striker Ched Evans and a further strike from Mark Bradley earned Flynn's young Cymru side a famous 4-2 victory on the night, with Dimitri Payet scoring the second goal for France. Further victories away to Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina followed in early 2008, but a 1-0 reverse at home to Romania in August left the side with a must-win return match on the final day.

Cymru produced thanks to goals from Rhys Williams, Simon Church and Rhoys Wiggins to finish above France and win the group. However, at the time only eight teams qualified for the finals, and a play-off against England was required in order to decide which of the two British nations would head to Sweden the following year.

Two goals from Church for Cymru in the opening leg at Ninian Park were cancelled out by David Wheater, Adam Johnson and Gabriel Agbonlahor hitting the target for Stuart Pearce's England to win 3-2. Church was again on the scoresheet in the return match at Villa Park along with Ramsey, but Tom Huddlestone and an own goal from Sam Vokes earned England a 2-2 draw on the night, and crucially, a 5-4 win on aggregate.

But the real success for Cymru was in the experience gained, and within a couple of years of the disappointment, the majority of Flynn's squad had established themselves as senior internationals under Toshack and his successor, the late Gary Speed. Promoting youth players through the ranks has became a blueprint for Cymru since that time, an approach that current manager Ryan Giggs has taken to another level since his appointment.

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