The great Wales adventure at Euro 2016 came to a disappointing end as they were beaten in the semi-final by Portugal in Lyon. Chris Coleman’s side entered the biggest game in Welsh football history – at their first major tournament since 1958 – carried by a wave of emotion and optimism after their 3-1 win against Belgium in the quarter-final. The big threat was always going to be Cristiano Ronaldo – and so it proved as his magnificent header broke the deadlock after 50 minutes. Three minutes later, his shot was diverted past Wayne Hennessy in the Wales goal by former Manchester United team-mate Nani.
Wales sorely missed the energy and authority of suspended midfielder Aaron Ramsey – and with Ronaldo overshadowing Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale in this game’s crucial battle, a journey that has made a country proud finally reached its conclusion. Portugal will now face hosts France or 2014 World Cup winners Germany in Sunday’s final at the Stade de France final in Paris. The Wales fans have been magnificent at Euro 2016, entering into the spirit of a patchy tournament with the same passion and positive thinking that has epitomised Coleman’s squad. And as defeat became increasingly inevitable on a steamy night in Lyon, they showed their appreciation for what they have seen in these recent weeks with rousing songs and a splash of colour.
Wales may have lost but the manner in which they approached Euro 2016 was exemplary and has provided memories that will last a lifetime, especially those second-half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes that sank Belgium. They took the tournament head-on, perhaps only wavering when gripped by the occasion against England in their Group B contest Lens, even then only losing to Daniel Sturridge’s injury-time winner. The confidence Wales can take away from France will provide the ideal platform for their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts against Moldova in Cardiff in September.