"Football is hard." That's what Gareth Bale said in his final press conference before Wales played England. The point he was making was that it is not a game won by passion or heart or 'who wants it most' whatever that means. If it was "we'd be favourites to win the World Cup," he said.

Football is hard. It certainly is at this level. There are 211 footballing nations currently ranked by FIFA. Only 32 qualify for the World Cup, the biggest sporting tournament on earth.

The best 32 teams in the World don't necessarily qualify either, being from Europe or South America makes the challenge harder because there are a small number of places available for a large number of good sides.

Read more: Wales players and fans stay behind to sing national anthem in stunning moment of togetherness

Oh and by the way, the qualification process is seeded, as are the finals, which favours the larger nations.

To get to the World Cup Wales had to play 10 matches. We played Belgium twice who are still ranked the second best team in the world. We played the Czech Republic twice, ranked 35. Austria ranked 34 and Ukraine ranked 27.

In Qatar we have played the USA, ranked 16th, Iran ranked 20th and England, ranked 5th. Football is hard.

Wales is the smallest nation in the World to qualify for this World Cup (hosts Qatar are the only smaller ones but received a free pass).

Wales team photo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Wales team photo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Wales' Connor Roberts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales & England
Wales' Connor Roberts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales & England

We are a country of 3.2 million. USA 330 million, Iran 85 million, England 56 million. Football is bloody hard my friends.

So I can understand the hurt, the disappointment after so many years of waiting. But that is sport. Winning and losing. Highs and lows. There cannot always be a Euro 2016 fairytale. Sport is more heartbreak than glory. It's just that the glory, in those fleeting moments, is so damn good.

On June 5 this year we felt it. We saw a team drag itself into dreamland by beating Ukraine. That was our World Cup final. Qatar itself was a step too far for fading stars to shine one more time.

Football is hard. But it's just a game. A release from life, which is much harder. It is also a vehicle for identity and for people to express themselves.

I'm going home now to see my wife and my children. To tell my parents what it was like. To tell my friends the things I can't print here. To tell the story of when little Wales stood up and sang and cheered and showed the world who we are. If only for a little while. A proud nation of people who have always had to fight for recognition. For a platform and a voice.

Call me sentimental. Call me silly. Call me a fool. Look at the little Welshman being happy to be sent packing. Small team mentality. Pathetic. That's what they'll say. They don't get it. They never will. I could not care less.

It has been the privilege of my life to report on Wales at the World Cup. This triumph against the odds.

Cymru am byth, bois bach. Cymru am byth.

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