By Graham Thomas in Doha
Connor Roberts insists the future for Wales is still bright – whatever happens to the older generation of stars for whom the World Cup could be a final curtain call.
The Wales defender claims the current crop of Wales players under the age of 30 can continue to ensure the nation regularly qualifies for the finals of major tournaments.
The futures of Gareth Bale, 33, Aaron Ramsey, 32 this month, Joe Allen, 32, and 35-year-old Wayne Hennessey have been under the spotlight since Wales finished bottom of Group B in Qatar, with a single point from one draw and two defeats.
Wales exited the tournament they had strived for 64 years to reach, having conceded six goals and scored just one from the penalty spot.
Asked whether he feared some players over the age of 30 would now decide to retire from international football, Roberts said: “I am not sure. You would have to ask them.
“I know there are also a lot of players the right side of 30 and there’s a lot of talent in this squad.
We have had to wait 64 years for this moment to tell the world who we are.
Our language. Our culture.
Our history. Ein Wal Goch.
We’ve done that. Together.
Cymru. Ar Ben y Byd. #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/UnkmuBRqN0
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 29, 2022
“Things move quickly and we move into March. We’ve got a lot of young players who can learn from this experience and hopefully take it forward.
“The next achievement will be to not only get to a World Cup, but to get out of the group stages.”
The Burnley defender played in all three games at the tournament – the draw with the USA and defeats to Iran and England – and admits the performance levels were way below expectations.
“There were patches when we did show what we are all about, but they were too few and far between,” added Roberts.
“It’s a little bit disappointing, but for a lot of the players – myself included – I am ecstatic to be able to say that I represented my country at a World Cup.
“Everyone looked at the group and thought, ‘maybe they’ll do this or that’ but we played against three very good teams.
“I know England blew Iran away, but they are no mugs and they showed that against us.”
Somehow managed to play at a World Cup 🤣! Enjoyed every second, and always thankful for your support! #Wal #LittleOldWales #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/Tw6lFUq8fu
— Connor Roberts (@ConnorRobs) November 22, 2022
Roberts, 27, is still young enough to be part of the Wales squad for at least one more World Cup campaign.
The former Swansea City player insists the target now has to be the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers which begin in March for Euro 2024, and then the 2026 World Cup finals, where he says the ambition should be to reach the knockout stages.
“We have a lot of different emotions, I think. We are a little bit disappointed with our performances and where they have taken us in this competition.
“But like I have said before, it’s a massive achievement for us to even be here. So, I think when we look back we will realise that.
“The next accomplishment and achievement for Wales men’s team is to get out of a group at a World Cup, whenever that may be.
“We might have to wait a while, or we may not have to wait too long. But that is the next goal and it’s a good thing that football moves quickly.
“The Euros start in March and we need take these experiences from here. The young players need to learn from this and we go again in March.”