If you live in or Wales, or are of Welsh descent, surely you can’t believe the Friday you’ve had.
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A few hours ago, you watched the Welsh, led by manager Chris Coleman and Gareth Bale, take the Dragons through to the semifinals of EURO 2016 with another unlikely triumph, this time over the golden generation of Belgium. You can’t believe it; I can’t believe; no one can believe it.
Not even Coleman, who took over as Wales boss during the most trying of times in January 2012, can believe it. Following the quarterfinal victory in Lille, France, Coleman spoke of just how far his team and country have come during one international cycle, and the challenge that lies ahead in their first-ever semifinals appearance at a major tournament — quotes from the Guardian:
“You dream about nights like this and to be lucky enough to be involved in a performance like that is incredible. The position we find ourselves in now is incredible, because four years ago we were as far away from it as it is possible to be.
“This is uncharted territory for us, we have never been here before, but all I can do is keep reminding the players never to forget where they came from and what we had to do to get here. That’s why I know we are not going to get carried away. We are not thinking of the final, much less thinking about winning the tournament. We are just thinking about the next challenge, which is Portugal.”
“When you are facing a team as good as Belgium the last thing you want to do is go a goal down after 10 or 15 minutes. But after our worst fears were confirmed we just got on with the game plan. Once we equalized we bossed the first half and not many teams will do that against Belgium. There were long periods when we were in control. We didn’t nick this result, we took the game to Belgium. We kept going forward and when we had to defend we defended like soldiers.”
It’s tempting to say, “At this point, you have to make Wales the favorites,” until you remember that Aaron Ramsey, who was brilliant against Belgium, and Ben Davies, who has been rock-solid at the back throughout the tournament, will be unavailable after each player picked up their second yellow card in five games — worst rule in sports? Worst rule in sports.
The task is a bit taller, then, until you remember that Bale, easily one of the top five or 10 players in the world, wasn’t called upon for too terribly much against Belgium, and that they won with only marginal contributions from the Real Madrid winger on Friday.
Bale versus Cristiano Ronaldo — teammates in Madrid; superstars opposite one another with a place in the final of the European Championship on the line. Roll on, Wednesday. Roll on.