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Wales are in a strange position for the next two days as we are not yet knocked out of the World Cup for good, but we know we really are.
Realistically, we have to forget about making the last 16 because our chances are so slim. Instead, our focus should change to just leaving this World Cup on a high.
That’s the mentality I would have as a player in this situation and if by some miracle we stay in the tournament, the celebrations would be incredible.
So we have to pick ourselves up for this last game of Group B and it obviously helps a lot that we face England on Tuesday.
It’s a huge opportunity in any situation, but especially because it’s the first time we’ve met in a World Cup.
We haven’t beaten them since 1984 so if we win whoever scores will probably be a hero for life in Wales.
“England are still favorites against Wales”
No one will give us a chance against England and I know that feeling. I played them three times for Wales, and they were favorites every time.
In 2011, when we played them home and away in the same qualifying group for Euro 2012, we felt like huge underdogs. It was a bit of a little brother versus big brother scenario, and our feeling was “let’s see what we can get.”
And, at Wembley, we almost had something. Rob Earnshaw had a great chance to score a run for us late but shot over the bar.
When we faced them next, at Euro 2016, it was different. I was captain and we were ready for that one, I can assure you.
We led 1-0 thanks to a Gareth Bale free-kick and, even when England equalized early in the second half, we were the ones pushing for a winner.
We thought we could get it too, then got hit with a dart just at the end when Daniel Sturridge scored his winner in stoppage time.
But at no time did we feel like we were out of luck and it will be the same with this team, despite their disappointing performance so far in Qatar.
The difference six years ago was that we practically had a full squad of Premier League players, all of whom played regularly.
And we also had two special players in Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. Gaz was one of the top three players in the world then, without a shadow of a doubt, but Ramsey was sensational for us in France too.
None of them have been at that level here, unfortunately. It’s not for lack of effort, but I’m sure Gaz will admit that those two games weren’t his best.
It’s the same with Aaron. He worked so hard in both games but it just didn’t happen to him when he took the ball like we are used to.
This time, against England, we may need someone else to step in. I would love for Brennan Johnson to score a goal and make a name for herself early in her Welsh career, but whoever does it will go down in Welsh folklore.
“We don’t want to leave under a cloud”
It’s hard to be a leader when you’re hurting inside, but if I captained Wales now I’d do my best to get through the game against Iran and also to make everything the world is fine.
My message to the other players would be simple: if we go home in a few days, we don’t want to leave under the cloud of what happened against Iran. Let’s dig deep and show the world what Wales really is, and that’s what we came here to do.
I can imagine Friday was one of the worst days for anyone on the team. I know it was horrible for the fans, but it’s magnified 100 times when you’re in the camp.
The players will have had a tough few hours but they have yet another game and another chance to change the mood and the way this tournament will be remembered.
“I am convinced that Wales can turn things around”
We can’t complain about our position in Group B. We’re last because we didn’t play or didn’t do ourselves justice.
The defeat to Iran was the first time in a long time that questions had been asked about this team. Now is the time for them to show what they are made of and dig in.
They did it against Austria and Ukraine to get us here, and many times when I was with them too.
I’m good friends with most of them. I know their characters and their mentality and I know they can turn things around.
I’m not talking about reaching the last 16, because that’s over now. We don’t even need to beat England, we just need to perform for the traveling fans and everyone at home.
So there is still a lot to play for from our point of view and it would be the same even if we were already absolutely certain to return home.
Ashley Williams was talking to Chris Bevan in Doha.
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