They may have flattered to deceive against Portugal, but Chris Coleman’s side have scripted their own fairy-tale…
When Chris Coleman was appointed Wales boss after the sad passing of Gary Speed in 2012 the team were ranked an abysmal 117th in the world rankings and had tried and failed on several occasions to quality for a major tournament. Coleman lost his first four games in charge and momentum was slow to build. It was two years until they were in shape to mount a serious challenge to make it to the expanded tournament in France. Their qualifying campaign was remarkable in itself, where they did the double over Belgium amongst many other notable results. Making it to the tournament convincingly enough was an achievement, but their journey to the last four was the stuff of dreams.
The Welsh have become the second tournament debutants in European Championship history to make the semis in their inaugural attempt after Sweden achieved the feat as hosts in 1992. With all four British Isles sides making it to France, few would have put their money on Wales to perform the best among the lot. But, this side has always thrived on upsetting the odds and they did just that in style over the last three weeks.
The spotlight in the Wales squad has been firmly on Gareth Bale, with pundits and onlookers looking to see if the Real Madrid star could bring the big game presence he exhibited for his club to the national side. In France, as in the Qualifiers, the winger more than lived up to the billing making crucial contributions at key points in games, to tilt the balance in his side’s favour. Along with the three goals it was Bale’s charismatic leadership by example that came to the fore.
However, this is far from a one-man team and there were major contributors at different times who made a pivotal difference, Players like Ashley Williams and Aaron Ramsey elevated their performances to another level as Coleman’s team embodied their motto ‘Together Stronger’, truly proving that the sum of all parts is indeed greater than the parts themselves.
If there was one performance that epitomized the ethos of this Wales outfit it was undoubtedly their win against the Belgians in the last eight. Without regard for the big names in the opposition ranks Colenman’s men set about dismantling and overpowering the heavyweights providing for one of the standout results of the event.
That said, last night was not to be theirs as the spirited Welshmen were decisively second best in a game of fine margins against Portugal. But, that defeat has done little to overshadow what has been a fine campaign.
Wales would be rightly disappointed to have not gone at least a step further. But, that sense of frustration should be short-lived. For, if they can retain the same team spirit and cohesiveness that defined their time in France, they are certain to be in contention in the eventual shakeup for Russia 2018.
Report by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.