Euro 2016 Part 3:Posted: June 21, 2016
I refreshed for what felt like the hundredth time. There was no change. Wales were up two-nil, and the second round was less than half an hour away.
MWF and her cousin were talking, I have no idea what about, I was staring intently at my phone. I’d missed the start of the second half, having been at bingo (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). An error on my part, forgetting that Monday was the day. Wales one match from the knockout stages.
A win and we were through. A draw and what happened in the other match would decide our fate. A loss and it was home time.
Wales had bossed the first half, with Aaron Ramsey giving his best performance of the tournament, passing well and piercing the Russian defence with some good runs. He’s opened the scoring after Joe Allen fed through a gorgeous pass and Ramsey calmly chipped the keeper.
I’d been happy. But one goal is not safety. Wales were all over the Russians, attacking with menace and looking solid in defence.
Breathing space arrived as Neil Taylor, making up for his poor showing against England cut into the penalty area. His first shot smacked into the keeper, but the rebound fell kindly and he bashed it into the net.
Not bad for a man who’s last goal was six years ago against Grays Athletic. His joy mirrored everywhere and my bellowed “YESSS!” startled the blue rinse brigade.
Russia looked to be losing their cool, but despite repeated attempts a third was not forthcoming.
Gareth Bale had the look of a man on a mission, and you would have put good money on him finding the back of the net. The only downside being his desire to score made him selfish at times, trying too much when support was to hand.
I hoped that we wouldn’t be punished for this individual drive, and that Chris Coleman could calm him at the break.
A little over twenty minutes now.
Bale the scorer.
The tension unwound. The Russians were reeling before and a third effectively killed the match. Wales were in charge.
Arriving for the finish revealed Wales passing the ball with ease, the crowd giving an “ole!” to each move. Bale was taken off and the attacking edge still there, but with the game in the bag the intent was dimmed. Russia were done. A fourth would be slightly mean.
“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” rang out from the stands, and shots of the fans was an insight into the feelings I went through. Joy. Disbelief. Relief.
The final whistle blows.
Wales are through to the last sixteen. And with England held to a goalless draw by Slovakia, we finished top of the group. The party was on in Toulouse, and I was buzzing.
Who Wales will face next isn’t decided yet? But as group leaders it will be an easier match. Could we make the quarters? Well, a man can dream.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.