Wales’ World Cup comeback left family in tears: Rodon
Rennes, France: Wales defender Joe Rodon is too young to remember the only time his country played in a World Cup final, 64 years ago.
The 25-year-old defender, on loan at Rennes from Tottenham, is set to start on Monday as Wales appear in the tournament for the first time since 1958 when they face the United States in Doha.
Rob Page’s team reached the finals with a tiebreaker victory over Ukraine in Cardiff in June.
“I think the emotions that were shown that day in Cardiff, and especially at home with all the fans, hit every player,” Rodon told AFP.
“It’s been a long journey. My parents and all my family were crying after the game so I could see how much it meant to them.”
Until Euro 2016, when they reached the semi-finals, Wales had repeatedly tried and failed to repeat the feat of the 1958 team, featuring John Charles and Cliff Jones, of reaching a major tournament.
Defender Paul Bowden missed a penalty in the 1994 qualifying match against Romania when a win would send Wales to the USA, while the 2003 player featuring Ryan Giggs slipped to a European Championship play-off against Russia.
But six years ago, pain turned into joy at Euro 2016 in France, where Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey helped the country of three million people to the semi-finals.
Rodon has played alongside Bale for Wales since 2019 and spent a season with the five-time Champions League winners when the former Real Madrid star was on loan at Tottenham.
“Everyone knows what it is,” said Rodon of the Roazon Park Reign Hospitality Fund. “He’s been one of the best players in the world for years and we’re very happy to have him among us.
“Not only is it funny, he jokes, it kind of takes that pressure off the team.
“He’s a close friend of mine, too. It’s a pleasure to have him. Hopefully we can keep him for a few years.”
Rodon, who came from the Swansea academy, enjoyed a fine start at Rennes, as the club finished third in Ligue 1 after an 11-match unbeaten run in Ligue 1.
Along with Bale, Wales defender Ben Davies and ‘Honorary Welshman’ Son Heung-min, Rodon has created a flamboyant ‘Welsh Mafia’ at Tottenham with their contributions to the club’s social media channels.
“Ben is one of my best football friends too,” Rodon said. “I miss them but it was great having those two when I was there. It helped me settle in quickly and Sonny too.
“It was an amazing experience, and I will always remember it. We’ll see what the future holds.”
Rodon has become a mainstay under Page’s captaincy and has been an important player in Wales’ trip to the last 16 of Euro 2020, playing two group matches in a sweltering heat in Azerbaijan.
Wells has postponed training sessions in Qatar to avoid the hottest part of the day. “The environment will be difficult for us because we are used to the cold,” Rodon said.