Wales hero Nathan Broadhead never lost faith that his chance would come after a series of setbacks that almost derailed his international career.
Broadhead struck a sensational equaliser with virtually the last kick of the match as Wales held World Cup semi-finalists Croatia to a 1-1 draw in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier in Split.
In doing so, Broadhead became the first Welshman to score on his debut since Ben Woodburn settled a World Cup qualifier against Austria in September 2017.
But his Wales career was in danger of staying grounded for good after he picked up various injuries on the eve of squad get-togethers.
“Every time I got called up I’ve been injured,” said Ipswich striker Broadhead, who turns 25 next month.
“I’ve had loads of knockbacks in my career and the timing’s been a bit of an issue with Wales.
“But this is top of my list and one of the best moments of my life.”
Bangor-born Broadhead joined Everton at the age of 10 from Wrexham, but made only two senior substitute appearances for the Toffees and played in the Premier League for just a few minutes.
He had loan spells at Burton, Sunderland and Wigan before joining Ipswich in January for a reported £1.5million fee.
“Throughout the age groups I’ve always scored goals,” said Broadhead, whose hopes of playing at the World Cup in Qatar were scuppered when he suffered an injury before the play-off final against Ukraine.
“I believe in myself and I love scoring goals. Moving from Everton was the right decision for me, to find a home to play my football and enjoy my football.
“It’s got me a call up for Wales so it’s been great.”
Wales had not managed a single shot on target in Split in their first game since a poor showing at the World Cup and the retirement of talismanic captain Gareth Bale.
Croatia dominated possession and led through Andrej Kramaric’s 28th-minute strike from outside the box, but missed several chances to put the contest beyond Wales.
Then, just seconds after skipper Luka Modric was substituted to a huge ovation from home fans and with the game seemingly over, Wales won a throw deep in the right-hand corner.
Connor Roberts delivered long into the box and Chris Mepham flicked on for Broadhead to squeeze the ball inside Dominik Livakovic’s near post.
Broadhead said: “Sorba Thomas told me to gamble on the back post so I thought ‘Go on then’. I just saw it come to me and I thought ‘Oh, here we go’. Thankfully it went in.
“It was an amazing feeling. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time and to finally get on the pitch and score is a bonus.
“I went to the fans because I’m one myself. To get a point here is massive, so we’ll take that and move on to Latvia on Tuesday.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub