‘Crazy journey’: how Wales went from worse than Haiti to World Cup heroes | Ben Fisher

Bale, Ramsey and Hennessey were in the side that sunk to 117th in the world at the stadium where joy abounded on SundayEleven years ago Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Wayne Hennessey walked off the pitch at Cardiff City Stadium after a 2-1 friendly defeat by Australia in front of a crowd of 6,373, some of whom resorted to sarcastic cheers. On the face of it, it was hardly the worst result but it was a seventh defeat in eight and, more pertinently, it plunged the team to a record low of 117th in the Fifa rankings, sandwiched between Haiti and Grenada. If it was an unedifying sight for supporters to see Wales slip below Guatemala, the Faroe Islands and Mozambique, it should make qualifying for a first World Cup for 64 years all the more satisfying, if not surreal.Bale captained Wales to what he called the country’s greatest result against Ukraine, Ramsey went the distance in midfield and the 35-year-old Hennessey, who made two Premier League starts for relegated Burnley in the 2021-22 season, made nine saves – with arguably the best saved for last to deny Artem Dovbyk – in trying conditions. It was fitting that Bale and Hennessey, who have been inseparable since playing together for Wales’ under-21s and will continue their journey on the biggest stage in November, shared the moment, which Robert Page dedicated to the late Gary Speed, who was nine months in the job in August 2011.