Falling behind in the sixth minute against Andorra in the opening match of the campaign in September 2014 was typically Cymru at the time, but two goals from Gareth Bale reversed the scoreline. Undefeated following games against Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Cyprus, Cymru headed to Israel for a crucial game in Haifa, and it was Aaron Ramsey and Bale who shared the goals and the assists to claim an impressive 3-0 win in March 2015. Nicely poised in the group and having held Belgium to a 0-0 draw in Brussels the previous November, the Red Devils would head to Cardiff for what would be a famous night in June.
There was a momentum building within Chris Coleman's Cymru squad, and with crowds steadily increasing, the first capacity crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium for a competitive international came out to fiercely back their side for the challenge of taking on a Belgium team steeped in individual talent. But there was a belief within Coleman's side following their impressive start to the campaign, and this match at a crucial stage would shape the remainder of the group and decide what final position in the standings Cymru could realistically challenge for.
Belgium started strongly, but the surprise inclusion of Jazz Richards proved to be a key decision in Coleman's team selection as he restricted Eden Hazard, and Cymru grew in confidence as the visitors became increasingly frustrated. On 25 minutes, a misplaced header back to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from Radja Nainggolan was calmly controlled by Bale and he made no mistake from close range to put his side ahead. The celebrations between the players and the fans set the tone for the remainder of the match, with the impromptu anthem carrying the side through as Belgium ramped up the pressure in the second half.
“You need your big players to perform in the big games,” said Coleman to UEFA.TV in 2020 as he reflected on the win. “In that game, all our players fancied it. I’m looking at Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams and Gareth Bale. These players are top players and they couldn’t wait for it because it’s a huge challenge. Every player in our team did what they needed to do, and more, and I think Belgium in the end ran out of ideas because whatever they asked of us, we answered it. Psychologically, our boys had faced them before so we knew how good they were, but we didn’t mind having a fight with them. We were prepared to do anything we needed to do to get through that challenge, and all our players on the night were absolutely brilliant.”
The victory moved Cymru back to the top of the group, and while Coleman's side would eventually finish behind Belgium as runners-up, it ensured qualification for EURO 2016 and with it end a 58 year wait for a place at the finals of a major tournament. The rest is history, but the psychological edge from the memorable night in Cardiff cannot be underestimated when it came to producing results in the final stages of the campaign. Ironically, qualification was assured with Cymru's only defeat in the group as the side went down 2-0 to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica, but the celebrations made the result an irrelevance.