Euro 2016: Wale done!
Wales and unsung hero Hal Robson-Kanu completed a stunning fightback to beat Belgium 3-1 in Euro 2016 on Friday and reach their first major tournament semifinal.
Wales and unsung hero Hal Robson-Kanu completed a stunning fightback to beat Belgium 3-1 in Euro 2016 on Friday and reach their first major tournament semifinal. The victory in Wales’ first ever participation in a European Championship finals sets up a mouthwatering duel between their talisman Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo when the tournament’s last British representatives face Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday. Radja Nainggolan gave Belgium the lead in the quarterfinal in Lille, but Ashley Williams brought Wales level before a dazzling strike from Robson-Kanu, whose contract with English second-tier club Reading expired on Thursday.
A late header by substitute Sam Vokes wrapped up a historic victory for Wales. “Dreams, don’t be afraid about dreams, because four years ago I was as far away from this as you can imagine and look what has happened,” said Wales manager Chris Coleman, who succeeded his late friend Gary Speed as manager in 2012. “If you work hard enough and you are not afraid to dream and not afraid to fail, this happens. It’s sweet and I’m enjoying it.” Coleman’s men surpassed the Wales greats of 1958, whose quarterfinal showing at that year’s World Cup in Sweden had been the country’s greatest previous footballing achievement.
But they will have to do without both Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey after they received bookings that ruled them out of the semifinal. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots will face tough questions about his failure to achieve more with one of his nation’s finest collections of players, who also fell in the last eight at the 2014 World Cup. He was missing three of his four first-choice defenders — Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen through injury, Thomas Vermaelen through suspension — but with no other previous tournament-winners in this half of the draw, defeat represented a massive missed opportunity.
Inside the first 10 minutes, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard had all gone close for Belgium, while Romelu Lukaku failed to make telling contact with a deep Kevin De Bruyne corner. Robson-Kanu headed over for Wales and Bale hit the side-netting, but in the 13th minute Belgium went ahead when Nainggolan met Hazard’s lay-off with a blistering 30-yard shot that whistled into the top-left corner. Welsh indiscipline at the back was costing them as Davies, James Chester and Chris Gunter all picked up bookings, the former’s yellow card ruling him out of the semifinal.
But their reaction to falling behind was exemplary and after Neil Taylor had been denied by Thibaut Courtois, Williams met Ramsey’s right-wing corner with a thumping downward header to equalise in the 31st minute. The Swansea City centre-back, criticised for some shaky group-stage displays, was a picture of joy, racing down the touchline to embrace Coleman and the Wales coaches and substitutes. The goal seemed to unsettle Belgium and Wales ended the first half on top, with Williams heading another Ramsey corner over the bar and Courtois fielding Bale’s low shot and a Robson-Kanu header.
Wilmots stiffened his midfield at half-time, sending on Marouane Fellaini for Carrasco, and his side made a flying start to the second period, with Lukaku, De Bruyne and Hazard all narrowly missing the target. But it was Wales who scored next with a 55th-minute goal that lit up the tournament.
Belgium coach blames defence:
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots admitted lapses by his young makeshift defence proved costly as their Euro 2016 dreams ended in a 1-3 quarterfinal defeat to Wales on Friday. “I think our strategy was good because for 25 minutes we played excellently, getting forward, dominating, and then suddenly we started to drop back,” Wilmots said. “I didn’t stop shouting at them to push out but it’s difficult when they are out on the pitch. I was making big gestures as well. “Maybe they were afraid of leaving space in behind. Maybe there were problems with communication as well but I am not a magician. “We had a defence with an average age of 23. I am responsible,” he said.
Welshman giggs over the moon:
London, July 2: Ryan Giggs said Friday represented the “greatest night in Welsh football history,” after Wales beat Belgium to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Victory in Lille saw Wales into the last four of a major tournament for the first time in their history. Manchester United great Giggs, a former Wales captain, was in no doubt of the signficance of his country’s 3-1 win over Belgium, which set up a semifinal against Portugal.
“I’m so proud,” said the 42-year-old in his role as a pundit for British broadcaster ITV. “It’s quite simply the greatest night in Welsh football history, the best result in Welsh football history but more impressively, it was the best performance. To make a team ranked second in the world look so ordinary and in the end win comfortably is very impressive. They (Wales) were the better team in every area.”