Euro 2016 Part 6: Oh, me of little faithPosted: July 4, 2016
Crying like a toddler, and I don’t care. Magnificent. Utterly bloody magnificent – Gary Slaymaker
I haven’t cried yet. But it’s been a close thing ever since hearing the Manics blast out “Together Stronger” at the Liberty.
Welsh football has been a cruel mistress. Letting you down right at the end, embarrassing you in front of your English friends, never taking you anywhere nice, sometimes not even showing up at all. But then, like the hero of a romantic comedy who makes the grand gesture at the end, Wales came through.
The qualifying campaign was a dream. Making Euro 2016 a massive high.
A middle aged customer said to his friend a while back “We made it. Everything else is a bonus.”
And what a bonus.
Winning the group. Edging out Northern Ireland to make the quarters.
After dismantling Hungary, I thought Belgium were going to be too much for us. And in the early stages they bossed the game, with only heroic Welsh defending keeping them out.
But the line couldn’t hold indefinitely and finally they broke through when Nainggolan was given far too much room and fired in a cannon like strike from distance.
They could have fallen apart there, but part of their success is due to resilience and passion, and Wales not only getting back into the game but started dominating. An equaliser looked likely and arrived from a fitting source, captain Ashley Williams heading home.
Scenes of joy followed and Wales were in with a chance. After the break, Belgium regained a little bit of momentum but it was open play.
And then a moment of utter genius. Surrounded by three defenders and with his back to goal, Hal Robson-Kanu got the ball in the penalty area, and could have struggled. But with a clever flick he turned, wrong footing the defence and slotting the ball home.
Then the tension set in, Belgium throwing everything forward and Wales surviving through gritty defending and, yes, luck. With ten minutes to go I was perched on the edge of the sofa, a bundle of nerves and anxiety.
And then Sam Vokes, on as a substitute scored his first goal in a Wales shirt, a magnificent header to seal the deal at 3-1. Cue Wales, and me going into meltdown.
The semi-finals! We’ve made the bloody semi-finals!
A lump in my throat, joy in my heart.
Whatever happens against Portugal, the players have done amazing and I’m proud of the boys.
And whatever happens, I’ll end up in tears at the final whistle.
I just hope they’re happy ones.
Quarter Final Round Up
Portugal beat Poland on penalties to go through, and it went the distance between Germany and Italy. Germany, the penalty specialists, progressed but only after a laughably bad shoot out that featured some of the worst penalties I’ve ever seen.
The quarters also saw the end of the tournament’s great underdog story, as Iceland were demolished 5-2 by hosts France. It was a disappointing conclusion for the Icelandic team, who had been a surprise package and the small nation had rallied behind their players, bringing with them a small, vocal support who’s almost primal chant was awe inspiring.
They kept fighting, but were outclassed by a rampant French team, but saluted their fans and could be damn proud of what they achieved.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.