OK, it’s a special one today. I may have written before about the trials and tribulations of being a Wales football supporter during the eighties and the heartache that often ensued. It is these experiences and the recent game against the English that make watching Wales more nerve wracking than a day white water rafting!
Let’s just say that Wales have a habit of giving it away or being easily deflated on going a goal down and it’s this familiar pattern that has dogged our national team. At Euro 2016 Wales have proven these are far from usual times. They’ve been playing like they’re German! Twice now coming from behind to win.
Watching football in the dead of night (3am here in China) with headphones on is pretty bizarre and of course one can’t really yell out OMG!!! Or Yes!!!! In case the Chinese in the next apartment wonder what yours truly might be up to.
When Belgium went ahead in the 13th minute my heart sank, yet it was early enough for us to get back into the match. Hope is soon followed by what can best be described as a very Welsh way of thinking… ‘oh well that’s it then, we got to the quarters, that’s ok, better than…’ You know the rest. Fortunately this side has something we have not seen before – a will to continue.
And so it was when captain Ashley Williams headed home on 31 minutes that I began to think that even though we have faced up to Belgium twice in qualifying, both without loss and the latter time coming off the better that this may be their turn for glory. For a while that seemed a very strong likelihood, still it was all level at half time. All the more reason to consider ‘nah… they’ll kill us for that after the break.‘
On 55 minutes I was calculating how long it had been before the Belgian’s had broken our defence with that strike in the first half and whether there was more to come. There was, but surprisingly it would be coming from the man who had saved us in our opening game. With a deft and calmly taken shot on the turn Hal Robson-Kanu made it 2-1 to Wales!
Then misfortune would strike when Aaron Ramsey picked up a second yellow card and would potentially miss the semi-final, if indeed that was where we were heading. It was as substitute Sam Vokes insured Wales greatest victory, not just of this tournament – but of all time! Wales were now in uncharted territory, the semi-finals of a major championship.
So next up is Portugal, who have thus far been more than lack lustre; scraping through the group stage (finishing third) and winning on penalties against the Poles. Wales may have been fortunate against Northern Ireland but other than that and the glitch against the English have been near flawless. I’d say we were in a very strong position to progress to the final but still that Welsh doubt nags, we will be without Ramsey. Can they do it? Another terrifying 90 minutes will tell us on Wednesday (or rather early Thursday here in the land of dragons).