Euro 2016: Wales outwit Belgium 3-1 to enter maiden Euro semis
Lille (France): Wales are in dreamland after their greatest ever win saw them through to the Euro 2016 semi-finals, putting manager Chris Coleman and his players in an “incredible position”.
As if reaching a first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup was not enough, they finishing top of Group B ahead of neighbours England, won an all-British last-16 clash with Northern Ireland and then made history on Friday.
Radja Nainggolan’s exquisite strike put Belgium into an early lead in the Lille quarter-final, yet Wales rallied rather than wilted under the Stade Pierre-Mauroy floodlights and levelled through captain Ashley Williams.
Wales' players celebrate with fans after their 3-1 win in the Euro 2016 quarter-final football match against Belgium at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve near Lille, France on Friday, Pic: AP/PTI
Hal Robson-Kanu’s moment of inspiration put Coleman’s men ahead 10 minutes after half-time and substitute Sam Vokes’ superb header wrapped up a 3-1 win, seeing Wales through to their first major tournament semi-final.
31st minute: Ashley Williams
Stuff of dreams
“I think you dream about nights like this,” the manager said, with a semi-final clash against Portugal now awaiting on Wednesday. “You’re never sure whether you’re going to be good enough or lucky enough to be involved in an experience like that. I think if you’re lucky enough to be involved in that, it’s indescribable, really. I think four years ago we were as far away from the position we are in as you can be. It’s a great example by everybody that if you just believe, work hard enough... you need a bit of talent, of course, but you have to work hard and that’s what we’ve done. “We find ourselves in an incredible position and it’s obviously extremely pleasing and we’re enjoying every minute of it.”
Wales’ attitude and aptitude in Lille - and throughout the tournament - not only pleased Coleman but filled the manager with pride. His team “defended like soldiers” and played smartly, taking the game to Belgium after initially looking flustered. Coleman believes the result was fully-deserved, with the only sour note on a momentous night for Welsh football the bookings dished out to Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies that will rule them out of Wednesday’s semi-final in Lyon.
55th minute: Hal Robson-Kanu
'Gutted for Aaron'
“I am absolutely gutted for Aaron because he’s been outstanding in this tournament,” Coleman said. “One of the best players in the tournament, so he’s obviously gutted. “We said before the game tonight that one or two of the boys were on yellows but we’ve got to do what we need to do to get through.
86th minute: Sam Vokes
“If they have to take one for the team then so be it and Aaron has done that, so has Ben Davies. It is really so disappointing for both players because they deserve as much as anybody to be in the semi-final.
“They’ve been outstanding, both players, but they did what they needed to do, what the team needed from them,” Coleman added.