Written by Rhys Paul
Wow. Wales booked their place in the Euro 2016 Semi-Finals with a 3-1 victory over Belgium on Friday night. After falling behind to Radja Nainggolan’s unstoppable strike on the 13th minute mark, Wales responded brilliantly with goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes. It was the team’s best performance of the tournament so far and what a performance it was. They adapted well to the challenge – firstly when it was a frantic end-to-end game and then when they were forced to defend – and Chris Coleman’s side were certainly deserving of the victory over the course of the 90 minutes. Overall, it was another strong, team effort and not one of the players let themselves down against Belgium.
Wayne Hennessey – 7
Surprisingly, there wasn’t really much for the Palace keeper to do. He could do nothing about Belgium’s fantastic opener, but made a good save moments before during Belgium’s early spell of pressure. Most of his saves were aided by the shots being straight at him and he was further helped by Belgium’s wasteful finishing.
Chris Gunter – 6
A relatively quiet game for Gunter. He took one for the team when he brought down Kevin De Bruyne to prevent Belgium breaking and doubling their advantage. He continues to stretch the game on the wings in Wales’ favour and his contribution in attack was rewarded with an assist for Vokes’ goal in the 85th minute.
James Chester – 7
The whole defence was fantastic, but Chester has put in more polished performances. One of the many defenders to pick up a soft booking, he played a big part in nullifying the threat of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. A vital interception in the 70th minute from De Bruyne’s ball across the box prevented an almost certain goal.
Ashley Williams – 9 (Man of the Match)
The perfect captain’s performance. As the game heated up, Williams rose to the challenge and spearheaded the team’s response to falling behind. It was fitting he rose highest for the equaliser in the 31st minute. Organised the defence superbly when the inevitable Belgium response came, but he was often second best in aerial battles with Marouane Fellaini. Overall, a much improved performance from the skipper in all aspects of his game.
Ben Davies – 7
Although he was another player who I believe picked up a soft booking, Davies was lucky to get away with a foul on Lukaku when the Everton striker seemed to be through on goal. He was one of the players who continued to get crucial touches on dangerous Belgian balls into the area – the most impressive of which was in the 75th minute to deny Fellaini. Along with Williams, his whole-hearted defending helped prevent Hazard scoring early in the first half. It’s a blow that a player in such fine form will miss the Semi-Final.
Neil Taylor – 7
A much improved defensive performance from Taylor. His 26th minute effort could have been better, but it will not mean much since the team still won. He helped to keep the score (albeit briefly) at 0-0 with a block from Belgium’s second of three successive efforts early on.
Joe Allen – 7
Guilty for losing possession, the mistake led directly to Belgium’s goal. He did not put a foot wrong after that, however, and he was central to keeping the pressure on Belgium as Wales searched for the equaliser. Aside from the mistake, his passing was generally good – always looking to give-and-go – and as Wales looked to hold on, he turned his work rate up a gear. Allen is quickly beginning to show his importance in the Wales set-up.
Joe Ledley – 6
Another game in which Ledley looked off the pace. He was caught out by De Bruyne in the 70th minute as the game began to take its toll on the player and he was substituted soon after. There was significant improvement in his overall play from previous games.
Aaron Ramsey – 8
Ramsey’s energetic display made it seem like the Arsenal man was everywhere on the pitch. He was sometimes too slow to react and some heavy touches lost Wales the ball. Even so, he played a big part in creating Wales’ first two goals with a fantastic run being the highlight for the second. An unfair yellow card for a handball means he will miss the Semi-Final and his all-action nature means his absence will surely be felt against Portugal.
Gareth Bale – 7
The Belgium game marked the 5th game in which Bale has failed to reach the match-winning heights expected of him. That is not to say he has been playing badly and he once again showed his willingness to play his part for the team. He was always a threat on the counter-attack and he seemed more than happy to get stuck-in when the game got tough, particularly when Fellaini took it upon himself to mark Bale personally.
Hal Robson-Kanu – 7
A well-taken goal in the 55th minute set Wales on their way to victory. Although his Cruyff turn could use some work, Robson-Kanu proved he can be more than just an impact sub for Wales. His weakness at holding up the ball in the middle of the pitch was glaringly obvious and he had become sloppy by the time of his substitution in the 79th minute.
Andy King (77′) – 6
A sloppy header back almost let Lukaku in on goal, but other than that he did what he needed to and provided fresh legs for the tiring Ledley.
Sam Vokes (79′) – 8
Coming on for Robson-Kanu, he contributed defensively and put the game to bed with a powerful header in the 85th minute.
James Collins (90′) – 6
It was great to see Ginger Pele finally get on the pitch in the final minutes to help the defence see through the result. He should be a capable replacement for Davies in the Portugal game.
Do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Nazionale Calcio