Wales and unsung hero Hal Robson-Kanu completed a stunning fightback to beat Belgium 3-1 in Euro 2016 and reach their first major tournament semifinal.
The victory last night in Wales’ first ever participation in a European Championship finals sets up a mouthwatering duel between their talisman Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo when the tournament’s last British representatives face Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday.
Radja Nainggolan gave Belgium the lead in the quarterfinal in Lille, but Ashley Williams brought Wales level before a dazzling strike from Robson-Kanu, whose contract with English second-tier club Reading expired on Thursday.
A late header by substitute Sam Vokes wrapped up a historic victory for Wales.
“Dreams, don’t be afraid about dreams, because four years ago I was as far away from this as you can imagine and look what has happened,” said Wales manager Chris Coleman, who succeeded his late friend Gary Speed as manager in 2012.
“If you work hard enough and you are not afraid to dream and not afraid to fail, this happens. It’s sweet and I’m enjoying it.”
Coleman’s men surpassed the Wales greats of 1958, whose quarterfinal showing at that year’s World Cup in Sweden had been the country’s greatest previous footballing achievement. But they will have to do without both Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey after they received bookings that ruled them out of the semifinal.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots will tough questions about his failure to achieve more with one of his nation’s finest collections of players, who also fell in the last eight at the 2014 World Cup.
He was missing three of his four first-choice defenders — Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen through injury, Thomas Vermaelen through suspension — but with no other previous tournament-winners in this half of the draw, defeat represented a massive missed opportunity. “We had a young average age. I think the players have potential. I’m not going to kill them,” Wilmots said.