The start of a new qualifying campaign brings with it a natural hope and belief that dreams can finally become reality, and that the years of frustration will soon be forgotten and replaced with a moment of nothing but elation. However, Cymru have attempted to qualify for the World Cup on 18 separate occasions since 1950, and succeeded only once.

But amongst the sporting frustration of narrowly missing out on a place on the biggest stage in the football world, two qualification campaigns that went down to the final game not only ended in familiar disappointment, but also in human tragedy. This is the story of Cymru's attempts to reach the finals in 1986 and 1994, and why they will be remembered for what happened off the field rather than on it.

Drawn against Spain, Scotland and Iceland in Group 7, a 3-0 win for Cymru over Spain in Wrexham earlier in the year setup a winner-takes-all match against Scotland at a packed Ninian Park to end the group in September 1985. The strong presence of the Tartan Army helped create an incredible atmosphere as almost 40,000 came to witness a match that would go down in history for its tragic ending.

Mark Hughes handed Cymru an early lead, but with less than 10 minutes remaining, Scotland were awarded a penalty when Dutch referee Jan Keizer adjudged that David Phillips had handled in the area. Davie Cooper converted from the spot and Scotland held on for the crucial point that would take them through to the play-offs, and leave Cymru to rue what might have been.

However, the celebrations were cut short as news quickly emerged that Scotland manager Jock Stein had collapsed and died following the final whistle. The tragedy put the match into context as Scotland lost one of its truly great figures, and it was his assistant Alex Ferguson who would eventually take his team to the World Cup following their play-off victory over Australia.

The stakes were equally as high in November 1993 as Terry Yorath's Cymru side hosted Romania at Cardiff Arms Park. A team of talented individuals including Florin Raducioiu, Ilie Dumitrescu and the great Gheorghe Hagi arrived in the Welsh capital, but Cymru were just one point behind their opponents ahead of the decisive match, and only a victory would suffice.

It was Hagi who would open the scoring on 32 minutes as his long-range effort eluded Neville Southall. But there was a belief within Yorath's team, and Dean Saunders scored a deserved equaliser on the hour. With the momentum with Cymru, Romania conceded a penalty, but Paul Bodin could only rattle the crossbar from the spot. The match was eventually decided in the final minutes when Raducioiu made it 2-1 to the visitors.

There was a desolation about Cymru as Yorath consoled his players as they left the field, but minutes after the final whistle, a distress flare was thrown from one section of the crowd to another, killing supporter John Hill in the process. The result quickly became irrelevant, and the severity of the incident left every fan in the stadium stunned at the unnecessary and very real tragedy that had just occurred.

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