Euro 2016: Wales 3-1 Belgium - 5 talking points
Wales qualified for the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history as they overcame Belgium by three goals to one in a fascinating Euro 2016 quarter-final tie at Lille Metropole.
Belgium took the lead through Radja Nainggolan’s terrific strike, but were left to rue some poor marking as Ashley Williams’ free header made it 1-1.
Chris Coleman’s side took the lead in the second half through Hal Robson-Kanu, whose magnificent turn prior to the goal instantly took three Belgian defenders out of the game. The victory was sealed in the 86th minute as substitute Sam Vokes headed across goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from wingback Chris Gunter’s cross.
Here are the talking points from a historic encounter at Lille Metropole:
1) A contrasting first half
When Belgium’s crop of world-class players began to display their class right from the first minute, one feared that this could be a long, long night for the Welsh. Eden Hazard was creative, Romelu Lukaku was probing, while full-backs Jordan Lukaku and Thomas Meunier were constantly running the Welsh wingbacks Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor ragged.
Three of Wales’ back five were booked within the first half an hour. Their passing too was pretty wayward, Joe Allen and Joe Ledley repeatedly being the culprits of Belgian interceptions in the middle of the pitch.
However, Wales’ heroic defending in that early period ensured they were still in the game despite Nainggolan’s fantastic opener. They slowly worked their way back into it as the first half progressed. Their ball movement was more cohesive and they were creating more chances through Aaron Ramsey’s excellent passing in the attacking third. Gareth Bale’s pace was also beginning to prove a threat for Belgium’s inexperienced defence. Their team spirit and commitment in the early stages were reaping rewards.
Ashley Williams’ equaliser in the 33rd minute spurred a massive twist in fortunes for Chris Coleman’s side. They dominated proceedings since and made sure that Belgium’s backs were against the wall for much of the remainder of the game.