former Hull City goalkeeper Boaz Myhill has demanded Wales shake off their reputation of being slow starters to give themselves a chance of reaching a major finals after seeing their World Cup dream all but ended against Croatia.
Gareth Bale’s first-half penalty had put Wales on course for a victory that would have hauled them back into contention in Group A. But late goals from Dejan Lovren and Eduardo gave the visitors a 2-1 win at the Liberty Stadium, leaving Wales 10 points adrift of pacesetters Croatia and Belgium with just 12 still available.
As with their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, Wales have improved after a poor start, but it has come too late to salvage hopes of reaching a first major tournament since 1958.
Wales will now target a third-place finish in order to give themselves a better seeding ahead of the 2016 European Championship, where 24 teams will qualify. Wales have not won the opening two games of a campaign since they narrowly missed out on a place at Euro 2004, and West Brom’s Myhill knows the Dragons need to start qualification stronger than they have managed since.
He said: “We could not have had a worse start to this group. We played Belgium, who are the strongest side in the group, and then we had the heavy defeat in Serbia which no one in football saw coming. That was a one-off and it will not happen again.
“But we need to stop giving ourselves these massive mountains to climb if we want to qualify for a major finals.
“Now it is vital for us to finish as high up the group as we can to get a better seeding for the next group.
“We know that, so I am sure we will keep plugging away.”
As Wales faded, Myhill was forced to make a string of excellent saves to keep the Dragons’ lead intact.