Wales enjoy rewarding fans' support as adventure goes on
By Ed Dove
TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - Wales' Euro 2016 adventure continued on Monday as they thumped Russia 3-0 to reach the last 16 as group winners with manager Chris Coleman and midfielder Aaron Ramsey delighted to reward the fans for their fervent support.
Wales ended a 58-year wait for an appearance at a major tournament by reaching the finals in France and, as their supporters' terrace chant goes, they don't want to go home any time soon.
"We've been waiting to be at the finals for a long, long time," goalscorer Ramsey told reporters. "We're finally here and our main target was to get out of the group
"To finish top is a fantastic feeling," he added. "You can hear the fans singing and it means so much to make them proud."
After beating Slovakia in their opener, Wales fell to a late derby defeat by England, but responded emphatically in front of a partisan crowd in Toulouse to thrash Russia and top Group B.
"I'm immensely proud on nights like tonight, when you see that support," said Coleman, "and the feeling of pride as a nation. Geographically, we're small, but if you judge it on passion, we're a continent."
He also said they had asked Russia before the match if Wales could play in their red home kit, despite being designated the 'away' team by UEFA.
"Russia obliged," Coleman added. "Red's our colour, it's our country, that's why we asked."
Ramsey opened the scoring with a deft chip before goals from Neil Taylor and Gareth Bale -- tournament top scorer with his third of the finals -- secured a famous victory.
Wales' last major tournament was the 1958 World Cup, when they reached the quarter-finals, and their fans were keen to make up for lost time, having transformed Bordeaux into a Welsh enclave before generating a cacophony of support in Toulouse.
"Whoever's next will be a massive challenge," added Coleman. "We will enjoy tonight and go into the next match with confidence."
Wales face a tie against a third-placed team in Paris on Saturday when the fans can sing their favourite anthem on the Champs Elysees hoping their team's magnificent run continues.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)