It’s been 5 years since the Welsh football team and its fans took Euro 2016 by storm, after a 58-year absence from football’s major tournaments. With the delayed Euro 2020 tournament beginning tonight, and the team hoping they can emulate the heroic effort of 2016, here’s a quick recap of those unforgettable games via the Library’s Newsbank subscription (click on the headlines to read the reports).
Excitement was understandably high amongst the Wales fans before our first tournament game in almost 60 years. Could the team carry on from their success in the qualifying rounds? We got that answer within the first 10 minutes. Firstly, Ben Davies pulled off a fantastic goal line clearance to thwart Slovakia, and shortly afterwards Gareth Bale scored one of his trademark free kicks to put us ahead. Although Slovakia equalised in the second half, Hal Robson-Kanu sent Welsh fans wild when he scored the winner in the 81st minute to put Wales on top of their group. A dream start.
Topping group B, Wales were confident ahead of the game against their neighbours, and things were looking promising after Gareth Bale scored a long range free-kick on the stroke of half time. However, after equalizing early in the second half, England scored an injury time winner to knock Wales down into second in the group.
If the team felt any pressure about progressing from the group stages, it wasn’t apparent as they deservedly beat Russia. Ramsey and Taylor scored in the first half to give Wales a comfortable lead, before Bale wrapped it up in the second half, becoming the tournament’s top scorer. With England only managing a draw against Slovakia, this meant that Wales were the group winners.
With both teams playing their first knockout game since the World Cup in 1958, this was an understandably nervy affair. Chances were few and far between, and the match was ultimately decided by an own goal after Gareth McAuley diverted Gareth Bale’s low cross into his own net. Not that any Wales fan cared, the quarter-finals beckoned!
What came next was undoubtedly the most famous night in Welsh football history. Wales arrived in Lille knowing that they could make history and go one step further than their 1958 counterparts. Standing in their way were Belgium, who Wales had already beaten during the qualifying rounds. However, Belgium were favourites for a reason. 13 minutes into the game, they took a lead through Nainggolan’s 25-yard thunderbolt. Wales stayed in the game, and the captain Ashley Williams equalized on the half hour.
We were then treated to the goal of the tournament, when on 55 minutes, Robson-Kanu bamboozled the Belgian defenders with an exquisite turn, and then calmly placed the ball into the bottom corner. Cue Welsh fans delirium. Belgium continued to push for an equalizer, but Wales sealed victory with a stunning Sam Voakes header. Wales had made it to the semi-final!
Spirits were at an all-time high after the Belgium game, and Welsh fans had high hopes of the team making it to the final at the Stade de France. Unfortunately, Portugal had other ideas. Led by their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, they delivered a solid performance to book their place in the final, with Ronaldo scoring their first goal and setting Nani up for their second.
The dream was over.
Although they fell at the penultimate hurdle, the team had ensured that they would be forever regarded as sporting heroes, as was evident by the thousands of people who lined the streets of Cardiff to greet them home.
It was a campaign that went beyond any of our wildest dreams, and the team ensured that none of us would ever forget those 25 wonderful days. Here’s hoping for more of the same. Pob lwc hogia!!!
Thanks to Siôn England & Deiniol Glyn for the photos.
Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian.
This post is also available in: Welsh