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Wales stun world no 2 Belgium, enter historic UEFA Euro semifinals

Rohan Raj | Updated on: 2 July 2016, 17:40 IST

For a footballing nation that had reached the quarterfinals of a major tournament back at the 1958 World Cup, Gareth Bale-inspired Wales have surely come a long way to storm into the semifinals of the ongoing UEFA Euro Championship in France.

If reaching the Round of 16 and then securing the quarterfinal berth in the tournament had sparked a frenzy amongst their fans, Wales' pulsating 3-1 win on 2 July to knock favourites Belgium out of the mega event will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest nights in their football history.

Having beaten Hungary 4-0 in the round of 16 at the helm of an inspiring performance by Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgians were not only expected to overcome the Welsh challenge but also looked destined to put an end to Portugal's misery in the semifinals.

The Marc Wilmots' side, much to their hype, began the game really well and almost scored thrice in a single move early in the seventh minute. And, the Radja Nainggolan screamer in the 13th minute was supposed to be a precursor to what was to come.

But, rather than Belgium's efficiency up front, it was the dogged will of Wales which made all the difference in the end. The Chris Coleman side didn't just overcome Nainggolan's 30-yard thunderbolt but went on to add two more goals to the utter dismay of the Belgian fans.

Wales should have equalised in the 26th minute when Aaron Ramsey cut the ball back to Neil Taylor on the edge of the six-yard box, only to be denied but a resolute Thibaut Courtois.

But, the Belgian defence was finally breached in the 31st minute when skipper Ashley Williams headed home Ramsey's corner to make it 1-1 for Wales.

Belgium looked more likely to score than their Welsh counterparts in the second half. But it was the sheer brilliance of Hal Robson-Kanu that gave Wales an unlikely 2-1 lead in the 55th minute.

Bale's long pass found Ramsey inside the area and the iconic midfielder played in Robson-Kanu who wrong-footed three defenders with a Johan Cruyff-esque turn before lashing a goal past Courtois which will surely go down in Welsh folklore as one of the greatest in the country's history.

Desperate for an equaliser, the Belgium fans were left red-faced after Marouane Fellaini headed a simple chance wide from six yards. The frustration for Wilmots' men continued when Sam Vokes, who replaced Robson-Kanu, sealed a historic triumph by leaping to head home Chris Gunter's right-wing cross in the 85th minute.

The full-time whistle sounded the death knell for the glorious campaign of Belgium's golden generation, while it was greeted by rapturous celebrations by the Wales camp which is now just one game away from completing an unlikely run to the Euro final.

Wales have become the first team to reach the semifinal in their Euro debut since Sweden in 1992. They are also the first British side to reach the semifinal of a major international tournament since England in Euro 1996.

Coleman's side will now lock horns with Portugal in the tournament's semifinals on 7 July. Portugal had secured their semifinals berth after beating Poland 1-1 (5-3 pen).

First published: 2 July 2016, 17:40 IST
Rohan Raj @ro4an_raj

After a poor stint in gully-cricket quashed his hopes of turning pro, Rohan moved away from the playing field and began criticising those who were still on it. Football eases his mind and watching City paint Manchester blue is his elusive dream. When not talking, thinking or dreaming about sports, Rohan can be found listening to EDM or watching movies. A sports correspondent at Catch News, he has previously worked with Hindustan Times, Daily Bhaskar and India Today.