Wales star Neco Williams has revealed he could not stop crying before and during his side's opening World Cup match against the USA, following the death of his grandfather.
Williams was one of the standouts for the Welsh during a tense Group B clash that saw Gareth Bale's late penalty rescue a draw against the Americans at a raucous Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
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The 21-year-old Nottingham Forest fullback could be seen bursting out in tears on several occasions during and after the match, with Williams later revealing it was as a result of his devastating family heartbreak.
Williams revealed after the final whistle that he had only found out from his mother on the eve of the match that his grandfather had passed away, describing it as the "toughest news I’ve ever had to face".
The Wales defender could be seen walking around the pitch in tears after fulltime, as teammates and coaching staff consoled the grief-stricken player.
At one point Williams noticed a camera pointing in his direction at which time he looked down the barrel of the lease and said: “That was for you grandad.”
He later wrote on Twitter: “Yesterday was the toughest news I’ve ever had to face and that was listening to my mum tell me my grandad past away last night.
“To go from crying all day to start in a World Cup game was extremely tough but I got through it from the support of my team mates and family.”
Williams - who played 79 minutes before being substituted after inuring his back in an awkward challenge - was flooded with messages of love and support on social media.
Neco Williams dedicated his first World Cup game to his grandfather who passed away last night ❤️ pic.twitter.com/gAduohMVOe
— GOAL (@goal) November 21, 2022
Neco Williams grandad passed away last night and today he played in his first ever World Cup game.
You showed incredible strength Neco. Your grandad would be proud ❤️ pic.twitter.com/3jPv5bAQuj
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) November 21, 2022
Neco Williams on Instagram. Fair play to him for putting a shift in like that tonight in the circumstances. What a warrior. We are lucky to have him. pic.twitter.com/K79Sx9qbUY
— Glen Williams (@GlenWilliams12) November 21, 2022
— Adam Smithy (@AdamJSmithy) November 21, 2022
Neco Williams lost his grandfather last night 🕊
Tonight he played the first World Cup meeting of his young career with Wales 🏴
A model of bravery! 🙏❤️ pic.twitter.com/wGJR6cPHzM
— Forest Watch (@ForestWatch_) November 21, 2022
Incredible shift from Neco Williams tonight in remarkably tough circumstances.
Touching moment to see him dedicate his performance to his grandad after the match. https://t.co/khpOQQb60h
— Ian Mitchelmore (@IanMitchelmore) November 21, 2022
Gareth Bale rescues a late point for Wales
Bale's late equaliser from the penalty spot came after the former Real Madrid star was dragged down in the box by American defender Walker Zimmerman, with Wales' all-time top-scorer hammering the ball into the top of the net in front of the "Red Wall" of fans behind the goal.
Bales' conversion, despite goalkeeper Matt Turner getting a palm to the shot, marked his 41st career goal for the Wales national team, in his nation's first World Cup match since 1958.
"(The penalty) was always going to be me. No doubts. I feel like I had to step up and I was happy to do so," Bale told ITV.
"You are going to have a little bit of nerves, but I am confident in my own ability. In the first half they played well and we played poor.
From the second half our performance was fantastic so we will take a lot of confidence. We showed character like we did in 2021 at the Euros."
The USA started energetically and took a well-deserved lead with a 36th minute goal from French-based attacker Timothy Weah. They were unlucky not to go into the break with a bigger advantage against the flat Europeans.
Weah, the son of Liberian president and former World Player of the Year George Weah, timed his run to perfection after a beautifully-weighted pass from Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic and slipped the ball past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
It was the Americans' first World Cup goal since they reached the tournament in 2014. The Welsh were fortunate not to be behind earlier when Weah's cross deflected off a helpless Joe Rodon and hit Hennessey with the keeper knowing little about it. Seconds later Antonee Robinson headed wide with a good near-post opportunity.
Wales manager Rob Page made the key change at halftime when he replaced the ineffective Daniel James with the tall and muscular Kieffer Moore, who was exactly what they had been missing in the opening period.
The Welsh were able to apply pressure at the other end and went close twice in quick succession. First Ben Davies forced a superb stop from goalkeeper Matt Turner before Moore headed the resultant corner just over with a chance he should have buried.
Wales' pressure paid dividends as they won a penalty when Zimmerman went through the back of Bale. The Los Angeles FC star then made no mistake from the spot as he thrashed the ball wide of Turner.
The US will face England in their second of three group matches on Friday, while Wales will face Iran, who were thrashed 6-2 by The Three Lions in the day's early game.
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