WALES are the last of the Home Nations standing at Euro 2016.
Tonight sees Chris Coleman’s side face their biggest match for 58 years when they take on Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Victory in Lille would set up a semi-final against Portugal, so it’s no wonder the Welsh feel they could become history boys.
Will this Welsh dream get even better?
IMAGINE being a Welsh football fan right now. You are in the quarter-finals of the European Championship, 58 years after you last reached a major tournament. You have barely stopped laughing after England’s exit to Iceland and you are preparing for a huge match against Belgium. With the Portuguese waiting in the semis, you can even dream of the final.
In black and white, it is scarcely believable especially when it was not so long ago that Wales were losing 5-1 at home to Slovakia and 6-1 in Serbia. Some of the players on display tonight were involved in those defeats – Gareth Bale played in both – but the transformation since then has been remarkable. Wales have not lost any of their last three matches with the much-heralded Belgians and enjoyed a brilliant 1-0 win over the Red Devils in Cardiff 12 months ago, so there should be no fear on their part.
Wales have already left memories in France that will last for years, but they want more. The fans don’t want to go home and neither do the players and that desire could push them on to even greater glory.
Is Romelu Lukaku one of the best in Europe?
ROMELU LUKAKU and his family have been very happy in the last few months to tell observers he would like to play for a club in the Champions League. His performances in the last couple of months tailed off for Everton as he looked to be saving himself for the Euros but it’s fair to say his performances in France have been hit and miss. He scored twice against the Republic of Ireland, but has fired blanks in the other games. Notably against Italy, the best opponents the Belgians have faced, Lukaku was relatively quiet, missing the one great chance to score.
That raised question marks about his ability to make a mark at the highest level. But those had already been raised in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Manchester United when he missed a couple of glaring opportunities and had a penalty saved. We have all seen him score brilliant goals for Everton where he powers his way past defenders, but the question marks concern his close control and ability to link up with skilful team-mates like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne for Belgium. Therefore, a quarter-final against Wales is a big stage for Lukaku to impress potential suitors and show that he can cut it amongst the elite of Europe.
Player of the Day: Ashley Williams
IT has been quite some journey for a lad from Wolverhampton to be here leading Wales in a European Championship quarter-final. But that is what has happened to Ashley Williams. Released by West Brom as a youngster, he started out playing non-league football for Hednesford before he was picked up by Stockport County.
While still playing for Stockport in the bottom division, he was handed his debut for Wales in 2008 by then manager John Toshack after discovering that Williams qualified through his maternal grandfather. He moved to Swansea a couple of days later and helped them achieve promotion from League One to the Premier League.
Over the last five seasons, Williams has become one of the most consistent defenders in the top flight, and a natural leader as Swans captain. Those leadership qualities were also recognised by Chris Coleman when he made Williams the Welsh skipper in 2012. The 31-year-old takes great pride in his responsibility to the team, and that was never better illustrated than during Saturday’s win over Northern Ireland.
After a collision with team-mate Jonny Williams left him clutching his shoulder in obvious discomfort, it seemed certain he would have to leave the field. But the captain was having none of it and stayed on to help his team over the line. He has been passed fit for tonight and will do everything he can to keep the Belgians at bay.
French of the Day
Wales v Belgium, 8pm, BBC1