Soccer history is riddled with world class players who missed out on major tournaments because their national teams were not strong enough -- not so Gareth Bale .

Bale has led Wales into their first major finals in 57 years, the 2016 European championship in France.

The Welsh, who played at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, clinched second place in Group H with a match to spare despite going down to their first defeat, 2-0 in Bosnia, after Israel lost 2-1 at home to Cyprus on Saturday.

"This is right up there in my career. It was a dream from when I was a small child to play in a major tournament. It doesn't stop here, we have business to do in France," Bale said after the match in Zenica.

Real Madrid winger Bale, who scored six goals in the qualifiers, will enjoy the international stage denied to compatriots like Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and the late Gary Speed.

Wales are usually the nearly men in qualifying campaigns.

They were denied a place at the 1978 World Cup when Scotland were controversially awarded a penalty, even though the ball struck striker Joe Jordan's hand and not defender Dave Jones.

Paul Bodin's penalty miss against Romania saw Welsh dreams of reaching the 1994 World Cup in the United States dashed.

Then Hughes's Wales side fell at the final hurdle in 2003 in a two-legged playoff to reach the Euros, cruelly beaten at home by Vadim Evseev's strike after holding Russia in Moscow.