Wales kept their Euro fairytale alive with a brilliant win over one of the pre-tournament favourites, sending Belgium home and themselves into the semi-finals.
Belgium started more than a little brightly and with 13 minutes on the clock they were ahead through a bona fide thunderbastard from Radja Nainggolan that left Wayne Hennessy imitating a flying Gareth Bale and things looked like they could get nasty for Chris Coleman’s men.
Lesser sides, teams with weaker team spirit might have let that get to them under such unfamiliar yet pressured circumstances, but not Wales. Something special is happening within this side, nurtured by the late Gary Speed and reinforced by his traffic death. They pulled together to form a real team- the anti-Portugal, a team with a superstar (and Bale) rather than a superstar and his team.
It took them a little over a quarter of an hour to draw level, their captain rising highest to nod home a Ramsey corner and send Wales’ players and fans into meltdown. They had made it to a major tournament for the first time in 50 years and they weren’t giving that place up without a fight.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) July 1, 2016
Out of Wales’ last six goals, Ramsey has scored or assisted four of them, and he wasn’t quite finished.
It was the Arsenal man who was taking all the plaudits throughout the first half, upping his game significantly after his side fell behind. He drove at Belgium constantly, giving them no time to find space while finding tons for himself.
A half of two halves, the first finished level. Ramsey had created five chances, grabbed an assist, made 46 touches, and 37 passes at an 89% success rate.
Maybe blond really does suit him.
The second half started in much the same way as the first – Belgium dominant and Wales a little rocky.
But instead of going behind, Wales produced something quite amazing ten minutes after the restart, and, yes, it was Ramsey at the heart of once again.
Leaving Fellaini in his wake, Ramsey made a great run and when he was picked out, delivered a beautiful cross right onto the foot of Hal Robson-Kanu who then stunned Europe.
With a Cruyff turn, the player who is without a club, dumped three Belgian defenders on their arse and coolly fired past Courtois.
It was simply stunning.
— Daily Cannon (@DailyCannon) July 1, 2016
With 15 minutes left, Ramsey picked up the most costly booking of his life. Shown only his second booking in five games, the idiot tournament rules mean that he misses the semi-final.
When will he ever get a chance like this again? What sense does this make to ban a player for so little ahead of a game that means so much?
If I’m honest, all joy I felt at Wales going through to the semi-final died with that yellow card. Sure, my dad is Welsh, but he’s a pr**ck so it when they play I’m always torn. But I felt so bad for Ramsey, I wondered if it would be better if they lost so he, at least, was not robbed.
Weird how football logic works, innit? I doubt Ramsey was feeling the same way.
As the game entered the final minutes, Wales started sitting deeper, drawing Belgium onto them and came close to conceding a penalty. As they looked for the chance to hit on the break, they mounted a full rear-guard action and it looked like it could be attack v defence for the final eight minutes.
At least, that’s what most teams would have settled for. Not this Wales side.
Sam Vokes, on as a sub just five minutes earlier, made it three with the most delightfully directed header.
Wales were going through to the semis, and the good news? Aaron Ramsey will be rested and refreshed should they reach the final.
Would you bet against them?