It’s the year of the underdogs, isn’t it? First we had Leicester City. Then we had Iceland, now we have Wales. Of course, the journey isn’t done and dusted yet, but Wales took a massive step into the final four of the European Championships after sealing an emphatic 3-1 win over Belgium in Lille, earlier today.
The Belgians started very strongly and took the lead on the 13th minute mark, through Radja Nainggolan’s outrageous strike from 35 yards out. But from that moment onwards, it was all Wales. Chris Coleman’s men looked compact and they eventually got their coveted equalizer, thanks to Ashley Williams’ clinical header inside the six-yard box.
Belgium responded by bringing on Fellaini at half-time (We still don’t get the move), but it didn’t quite garner the response Marc Wilmots was looking for. In fact, Hal Robson-Kanu produced a Johan Cruyff-esque turn before slotting home from close range, to make oit 2-1 on the night.
The Belgians did threaten periodically, though it almost seemed like the Welsh were destined to get to the semis. When Sam Vokes came on, it looked like a conservative move, in a bid to rest Robson-Kanu. But Vokes produced a moment of brilliance late in the game, by heading Chris Gunter’s cross into the back of the net, to help Wales seal an unprecedented semi-final slot.
Here are three players that impressed today!
Take a bow, Joe. Take a bow. The Liverpool midfielder was outstanding at the heart of Wales’ midfield; oozing around the field with so much of composure and confidence. His first touches were on-point, and Allen constantly had the vision to stretch Belgium’s midfield and defence apart. If anything, he was equally diligent with his decision-making as well. ‘Welsh Xavi’ has always had a sarcastic connotation attached to it. But after tonight, you’d be fool to laugh at that nickname. Class act.
It’s still difficult to digest that Robson-Kanu is unattached at the moment. His late winner against Slovakia in Wales’ opening match was already an indication of what this lad is capable of, and he certainly did not disappoint. On a night Wales needed their attacking players to step things up, and not solely depend on Gareth Bale, Robson-Kanu delivered! He was tenacious, on and off the ball, but more importantly, he was hardworking in defensive situations as well. Then you have the goal. I’m running out of superlatives to describe it.
On night of absolute ecstacy for Wales, Aaron Ramsey is probably the only one feeling frustrated at the moment. He picked up his second yellow card of the tournament, which rules him out of their semi-final clash against Portugal. No big deal? No. Big, big deal. Ramsey was stunning against Belgium earlier today. With Neil Taylor and Chris Gunter having to focus more on defensive duties, Ramsey was instrumental in making runs across the channel, dragging defenders with him to open up space for Bale and Robson-Kanu. Check out Robson-Kanu’s goal, and observe Ramsey’s run in the build up to that goal. Stunning performance.