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World Cup 2022: Wales defender Neco Williams’ ‘surreal feeling’ at finals spot

Neco Williams in action for Wales
Neco Williams made his senior Wales debut against Finland in September 2020
Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listingsFull coverage details

Playing at a World Cup finals with Wales will exceed Nottingham Forest defender Neco Williams’ wildest dreams.

Williams is only 21 but has already secured Premier League and Championship title-winning medals and also played for Wales at Euro 2020.

Now Wrexham-born Williams will have a World Cup appearance to add to his achievements.

“As a kid I dreamt of playing for Wales and being a professional footballer,” Williams told BBC Sport Wales.

“Going to the World Cup is just the cherry on the top. All this coming together now is even more than what I dreamt of.

“Sixty-four years we’ve been waiting for this – a very long time – and I’m part of the squad going to the World Cup. It’s a surreal feeling.

“It will be special for me, my family and my friends.”

Family, friends and his home village of Cefn Mawr, just outside Wrexham, mean everything to Williams.

Days after being part of the Liverpool squad which won the Fifa World Club Cup in 2019, Williams was given a hero’s welcome at Cefn Mawr community social club.

Three years earlier, a 15-year-old Williams watched Wales at Euro 2016 with dad Lee at their local.

“When different clubs play, your dad’s mates support different teams and you’re having banter,” Williams added.

“But when Wales play it’s everyone coming together and supporting the same team and that’s what I’ve always liked when Wales play.”

Williams was seven when he joined Liverpool’s academy and he came through the ranks at Anfield, winning a Premier League title in 2020.

Neco Williams with the Premier League trophy in 2020
Neco Williams made six Premier League appearances in Liverpool’s title-winning 2019-20 season

But first-team chances were at a premium due to the form of England full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He spent the second half of the 2021-22 season on loan at Fulham and helped them win the Championship.

He then left Liverpool permanently, joining Nottingham Forest for £17m in the summer, signing a four-year deal with Steve Cooper’s side.

Williams has achieved so much in a short space of time and acknowledges the role and influence of his family, including grandfather Kelvin Jones.

“My mum and dad both played football but they weren’t any good,” Williams joked.

“I think it’s my grandad who I got it off. He was a good player and got scouted for a few teams back in his days and was one of the best footballers around my village.

“Injuries stopped him, so I’ve continued what could have been for him.”

Williams did not have any prior knowledge of his inclusion in Wales’ World Cup squad and discovered he had made it at the same time as everyone else.

Neco Williams (left) with Ben Davies
Neco Williams (left) with Ben Davies ahead of Nottingham Forest’s EFL Cup tie against Spurs

At that time Williams was at the City Ground preparing for an EFL Cup tie.

“When they announced it we had Spurs in the cup,” Williams said.

“I was on the pitch and Ben [Davies] came over and we had a quick look at it the same time.

“You feel so much more relaxed seeing your name.”

Wales face the United States in their opening Group B game in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Monday, 21 November.

Robert Page’s side will then be up against Iran on Friday, 25 November before a final group game against Gareth Southgate’s England four days later.

“We’re going to really go for it,” Williams said.

“We have the confidence and the belief with each other to go out and do something special and that’s what we’re aiming for.

“Our first objective is to get out of the group – if we don’t get out of the group we’ll be disappointed.

“From there it’s knockout games and hopefully we can have all the luck in the world and anything can happen.”