World Cup: Why Wales misfired and what the future holds for a golden generation

Bale and the Wales squad applaud the Red Wall after a 3-0 defeat against England ended Wales' World Cup journey. Credit: PA

The dust is now settling on Wales' World Cup campaign and the disappointment at how it all played out will hurt for some time.

Soon attention will have to turn to the future. Rob Page's side will be back in action in March and there is another major tournament to qualify for in Euro 2024.

But some time will need to be spent poring over just why Wales misfired so badly.

The FAW will review everything that happened in Qatar and that is unlikely to be a pleasant process.

Viewing the tournament through a purely footballing lens, the performances were significantly short of what has come to be expected from Gareth Bale and his team-mates.

Rob Page watches on as Wales take on Iran in the World Cup. Credit: PA Images

Safe for a solid 45 minutes against the USA, Wales were dispatched by their opponents with little resistance. It was meek and that will be the concern.

The elephant in the room is that Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey - two players who have given their country so much over the years and carried the side at times - were largely anonymous.

Other than winning and scoring a penalty in the opener, neither imposed themselves on the three matches in the way that they'd have liked.

Both looked short of match fitness and may have benefitted from a warm-up camp that none of the sides were afforded due to the unusual scheduling of the World Cup in the middle of the season.

Joe Allen's injury led to Wales playing a formation that left Ramsey - and midfield partner Ethan Ampadu - hopelessly overwhelmed in the midfield and it proved to be Wales' downfall.

Bale, and the rest of Wales' attack, were bystanders as the team were swamped in the middle of the field and robbed of possession.

Bale says goodbye to fans after Wales v England on Tuesday night. Credit: PA

Talk of retirement may be a tad premature or the players may feel they've given all they can to the shirt. But, certainly in the case of Bale, there is a sense that he must now adapt his game to play a different role in the side, given that his body no longer appears to be capable of what it once was.

Naturally, Wales will now have to look to the future and last night gave us a glimpse.

When the England defeat reached its conclusion, 20-year-old Rubin Colwill was in the thick of it and so was the hugely exciting 21-year-old Brennan Johnson.

The likes of Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson, Daniel James, Joe Rodon and Neco Williams are all now established members of the squad but all are below the age of 26.

There is talent to carry this team forward into the next major tournament but there is a growing sense that a period of transition is on the horizon.

'Roles will have to change'

That is not to say that the services of the more senior members of the squad - the Bales, Ramseys and Joe Allens of the world - should simply be dispensed with.

But there is likely to be a recognition that their roles will have to change.

The challenge for the FAW and manager Robert Page - who signed a four-year contract in September - is to make that transition without compromising results when the qualification for Euro 2024 begins against Croatia in March.

Welsh football has enjoyed a golden generation that has given the country so much over the last six years.

It will now fall to a new wave of players to build on what has gone before.

But qualifying for the next Euros is critical because if the momentum that has been generated is lost, it may well be difficult to get back.

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