Belgium 1 – 3 Wales
Belgium – Courtois; Meunier, Aldeweireld, Denayer, Lukaku (Mertens 75′); Nainggolan, Witsel; Carrasco (Fellaini 45′), De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku (Batshuayi 83′)
Wales – Hennessey; Chester, Williams, Davies; Gunter, Allen, Ledley (King 78′), Ramsey (Collins 90′), Taylor, Bale, Robson-Kanu
In this Quarter-Final tie, Wales came out victorious, as they reach the Semi-Finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history.
It was Belgium who started the better of the two sides. They caused Wales a lot of problems early on through their fluent and free flowing style of play.
There was an unbelievable sequence of play after just six minutes. Romelu Lukaku found Yannick Carrasco with a shrewd square ball, the winger was unmarked but his shot was well saved by Wayne Hennessey.
The ‘keeper’s save rebounded to the feet of Thomas Meunier, who saw his attempt blocked on the line; then the ball fell to Eden Hazard, who’s shot was deflected over the bar.
After 12 minutes, Belgium deservedly took the lead. Some patient build up play from Marc Wilmots’ side, saw the ball eventually fall to Radja Nainggolan; he let the ball run across his body before trying his luck from 30 yards out. It was an unstoppable shot which found the top corner superbly.
Belgium’s goal seemed to do the world of good for Wales; they livened up and were the better side for the remainder of the second half.
Wales were dominant in possession and their first good chance of the game came through Neil Taylor after 25 minutes. Aaron Ramsey astutely found himself free on the right hand side as he broke into the box before he picked out the incoming Taylor, who’s first time shot was saved brilliantly by Thibaut Courtois.
Wales took advantage of their dominance with their equaliser in the 30th minute. Aaron Ramsey put in a brilliant cross from the corner spot; it fell nicely for Ashley Williams, who had completely lost his man and his header found the bottom corner to put Wales level.
Wales continued to dictate the game until half time. They put in a very impressive first half display after Belgium were dominant for the first 15 minutes. Chris Coleman’s men did not panic as they calmly found their feet to get back into the game.
But after the break, Belgium came out with intent and put Wales under further pressure. Just two minutes after half time, Meunier sent in a pinpoint cross for Belgium’s talisman, Romelu Lukaku, who peeled off the back of Williams before sending his header just wide of the bottom corner.
Then, against the run of play, Wales broke freely on the counter. Ramsey received the ball on the right wing before he pulled it back for Hal Robson-Kanu in the box.
He was marked but he somehow broke free of his markers as he audaciously pulled off a sublime Cruyff turn to find himself free, before beating Courtois to give Wales a 2-1 lead.
After they took the lead, Wales were comfortable and Belgium’s attackers were not able to cause them any serious problems. Belgium struggled to break down Wales’ back three, as they seemed to lack cohesiveness in their attacks.
Belgium’s best chance in the last period of the game came after 73 minutes. Toby Alderweireld found himself high up the pitch in the search for a equaliser, as he crossed the ball into the penalty box towards the head of Marouane Fellaini. He beat James Chester to the ball but his header went wide of the far post.
Then in the 85th minute, Wales broke away on the counter attack. Chris Gunter had the ball on the right hand side, before he sent in a cross into the box towards the substitute, Sam Vokes. His superb glancing header was too good for Courtois as it put Wales 3-1 up and into the Semi-Final of Euro 2016.
Wales manager, Chris Coleman, reacted to his sides historic victory after the game:
I said before we kicked the ball today, we are not here to enjoy it, we are here to compete. We defended like soldiers. All I can do is reiterate to the players never to forget what it took to get here. I know my team are good enough to perform against anybody.
Many Belgian onlookers are calling for Wilmots to resign after last night’s defeat, he reacted by stating:
I said I’d make my decision after the European Championship. I won’t make one straight after the game. There’s a lot of adrenaline going. We’ll have to see.
In the end, Wales were deserving winners; they outfought Belgium, who had started the game well. Seemingly, the difference between the two sides is that Wales are a team, with an evident plan and specific well drilled jobs for each player.
But Belgium’s players performed as individuals for much of the game, as they struggled to break down Wales. They are a side that have massively underachieved so far. When you look at the abundance of quality at their disposal, they arguably have the best squad in the tournament.
Wales’ extraordinary run in this tournament continues as they reach the Semi-Finals for the first time in their history. In the next round they face Portugal, in a game which may be overshadowed with the face off between Real Madrid’s star men, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
If Wales perform to the level as they did against Belgium when they face Portugal, there is no reason why they cannot go all the way to the final. As they face a Portugal side, who have not been overly impressive in the tournament so far, in spite of them reaching the Semi-Final stage.
Man of the Match – Hal Robson-Kanu