'I wouldn't have got into this Wales team,' says manager Gary Speed

• Craig Bellamy shines after swapping wings with Gareth Bale
• Wales eager for World Cup after 4-1 win over Norway

The expression on Gary Speed's face changed when laughter greeted his suggestion that he would have struggled to get into the Wales side who have won four out of their last five matches under his management. "I'm serious. I don't think I would have got in that team," said Speed, the most capped Wales outfield player. "All the way through it is quality."

Yet it was actually the one player in the Wales side who Speed played alongside who had done most to catch the eye on an afternoon when the "No Team GB" banner that was unfurled before kick-off lasted about as long as Norway's resistance. Craig Bellamy was a revelation, scoring a brilliant individual goal and wreaking havoc on the left flank with a performance that provided a reminder of how important the Liverpool forward could be in a World Cup qualifying campaign that cannot start quickly enough for resurgent Wales.

After a week when so much attention had been focused on Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, Bellamy stepped out of the shadows to score his first international goal for 15 months in a man-of-the-match display that drew effusive praise from his manager, team-mates and even the Norwegian left-back who he once attacked with a golf club.

"He showed that he has still got it," said John Arne Riise, a former Liverpool colleague. "He is still sharp, quick and with a good touch. He scored a good goal too."

That the 32-year-old's 19th international goal came after he cut in from the left provided further vindication of the recent decision to deploy Bellamy and Bale – who scored his third in as many games for Wales five minutes earlier – inside out. "The first few games we played Craig on the right and I didn't think we were getting the best out of him, so we just decided to swap it," said Speed before hinting, with a smile, that it was the player rather than the manager who was behind the move. "Obviously Craig's very vocal and he told us what he thought."

A change of club may also have helped to rejuvenate Bellamy, whose career seemed to be drifting last season, when he was on loan at Cardiff City and in and out of the Wales set-up. Ramsey said: "Whenever someone moves to a new club they are going to be excited by that and the season ahead. I think he has that spark in him again. He was a threat all game getting down that wing. He is still a massive player for us and we hope to keep him for a long time."

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil would be a fitting swan song for Bellamy's international career, and although it is premature to be talking about Wales reaching the finals of a major tournament before the qualification games have got under way, there is renewed belief coursing through Speed's players after victories over Montenegro, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Norway in the last three months.

"There is a new buzz playing for Wales," Ramsey said. "I think everyone can see how promising this team looks."


Stuart James at Cardiff City Stadium

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