By Jake Davies
- Radja Nainggolan put Belgium in front inside the first 15 minutes
- Hal Robson-Kanu scores the winner to seal victory for Wales
LILLE, FRANCE – Wales advanced to the semi-finals of an international tournament for the first time in their history, after surpassing a talented Belgium side in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
Marc Wilmots’ men started off the stronger and tormented the Welsh defence for large periods of the early stages of the quarter-final. Having withstood attack after attack, it looked like Wales had survived the barrage of Belgian onslaught, then a long-range goal put Belgium in the ascendancy.
The AS Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan’s 25-yard effort from range fizzed past the Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey as it looked like the class of a Belgian golden generation would shine through on an eventful night in Grand Stade Lille Métropole.
Wales captain Ashley Williams showed his timeless leadership qualities as he sent home a significant equaliser that ultimately brought Wales back into the quarter-final. The defensive solidarity of a team built on team unity and organisation was there for all to see, particularly in the pivotal moments of the second half.
A magical moment of individual and technical brilliance saw Hal Robson-Kanu strike another important goal on the 55th minute. Wales now realised they were on the brink of the most momentous stage of Welsh footballing history.
Belgium, the No.2 team in the FIFA world rankings, didn’t go down without a fight to the death. A cutting cross across the six-yard box nearly created a breakthrough, but standout player James Chester yet again proved his worth inside the penalty area.
Wales best performance at an international tournament was at the 1958 World Cup, where they crashed out in the quarter-final. With Sam Vokes‘ courageous header across goal, it signified Wales’ first semi-final in their debut at a European Championship tournament.
Incidentally, Chris Coleman’s men with fancy their chances in the semi-final on Wednesday against Portugal. Despite reaching the semi-finals, Portugal are yet to win a game inside regular time during the course of the 2016 tournament.
Although Wales are in unchartered territory, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Wales can reach the first international final in their history.
Wales face Portugal in the semi-final on 6 July, at 8pm (BST).
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