Wales, playing in their first major tournament since 1958, will face Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in Lyon in next Wednesday’s semi-final after goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes cancelled out Radja Nainggolan’s first-half opener the team ranked number two in the world by Fifa.
And less than four years after fearing he would be sacked following a 6-1 defeat against Serbia, Coleman insisted the moment in Lille must be cherished before thoughts turn to actually winning the tournament.
“You dream about nights like this and are never sure whether you will be good enough or lucky enough to be involved like that,” Coleman said. “If you are, it is indescribable really.
“Four years ago, we were as far away from this as we could be. It’s a great example of what happens with belief and talent. We are good enough to perform against any team in the world, but I don’t think about winning it.
“The first challenge was to get out of the group, the next challenge to beat Northern Ireland and then Belgium. Anybody with any other ideas, we won’t be thinking winning the tournament. We will be thinking about the next challenge which is beating Portugal.”
Wales vs Belgium player ratings
Wayne Hennessey: 7 out of 10
No chance with the Radja Nainggolan wonder strike which fizzed past him, but remained pretty solid and dealt with everything well.
James Chester: 7 out of 10
Another strong display at the back from the central defender who has had an excellent tournament. Never switched off
Ashley Williams: 8 out of 10
Played through the pain barrier after damaging his shoulder against Northern Ireland and will never forget precious goal
Ben Davies: 8 out of 10
Knew early booking would rule him out of a potential semi-final, but kept his composure to keep Belgium out after early goal
Joe Ledley: 7 out of 10
Vital cog in the Wales machine as he got through a huge amount of work and protected the back four before withdrawn in final quarter
Joe Allen: 7 out of 10
Misplaced pass led to Belgium goal, but composure in the heat of the midfield gave Wales a platform to which they could spring from
Aaron Ramsey: 9 out of 10
Tremendous tournament continued as he claimed two more assists to take his total to four. Booking rules him out of semi-final
Neil Taylor: 7 out of 10
Provided plenty of energy and width from his left wing-back station and would have had second goal of tournament but for fine Thibaut Courtois stop
Chris Gunter: 7 out of 10
Had his hands full with the tricky Eden Hazard and was booked, but it did not stop him getting forward to aid Welsh attacks and set up Sam Vokes’ clincher
Hal Robson-Kanu: 8 out of 10
Preferred to Vokes for his extra mobility and he occupied his markers well before scoring sensational second goal
Gareth Bale: 8 out of 10
Ruffled Belgian feathers every time he ran at their inexperienced defence. No goal this time but did not hide from defensive duties either
Sam Vokes: 8 out of 10
Sent on to hold the ball up, but produced great header for third goal
Thibaut Courtois: 6 out of 10
Chelsea man made a number of key stops but was not helped by his defence
Thomas Meunier: 5 out of 10
Brought in for Vertonghen but struggled throughout and will have nightmares about that Robson-Kanu turn
Toby Alderweireld: 6 out of 10
Stuck to task as he attempted to hold together an unfamiliar backline
Jason Denayer: 6 out of 10
Manchester City misfit struggled to live up to the standards of Vermaelen and Kompany
Jordan Lukaku: 4 out of 10
Partnered his brother but had problems throughout against an energetic Welsh front line
Radja Nainggolan: 6 out of 10
Stunning strike opened the scoring but unable to get on the ball as much as he would have been used to
Axel Witsel: 6 out of 10
Fighting a losing battle as he attempted to screen his defence
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco: 6 out of 10
Given start after impressing against Hungary but unable to match that impact here
Kevin de Bruyne: 6 out of 10
Has only been able to shine in fits and starts in the tournament. Came in for some rough treatment
Eden Hazard: 6 out of 10
Inspired second round win over Hungary but could not keep up his form here, however much he tried
Romelu Lukaku: 5 out of 10
Can look unbeatable at his best but was a long way from that here. Too easily put off his game
Marouane Fellaini: 6 out of 10
Brought on to help contain Wales but ended up destabilising his team further
Wales will face Portugal without the suspended Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies, who picked up their second bookings of the tournament in Lille.
But while Coleman insists both players will be ‘gutted’ to miss, he claims that the pair did what was needed to get Wales over the line.
“I’m gutted for Aaron,” Coleman said. “He has been outstanding, one of the players of the tournament.
“But we had to do what we had to do, maybe take one for the team, and Aaron and Ben Davies have done that.
“They deserve everything to be in the semis, but they have done what was needed to be done.
“There is so much pressure on the players, though, that two yellows in five games is tough.
“But they have done everything required of them and given everything for their country. It’s disappointing for them, but the rules are the rules.”
And Bale insists the Welsh will travel to Lyon have earned the right to play for a place in the final.
“We fought as hard as anyone,” Bale said. “We covered every blade of grass. I think we deserve to be in the semi-finals. We believe in ourselves. We know what we’re doing.
“It feels incredible. We fully believed we could get this far. We said we’d give it a good go. We’re enjoying the journey.
“We’ll go into the semi-final with confidence, but we can’t afford to look past that game.
“We’ll do our homework and work on our game plan. It means everything. Our fans were 10 times as loud despite there being much more Belgians in the crowd. We’ll enjoy the journey together.”
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