Any football fan who watched Euro 2016 wont need reminding of the incredible feat Cymru (Wales) achieved, reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships. For some, the incredible achievement was perhaps overshadowed by the giant killing of Iceland when they sent Roy Hodgson’s England packing.
Nevertheless, Cymru battled their way through with strong favorites Belgium just one of many nations to feel the full brunt of the famous dragon as Hal Robson-Kanu displayed the dominance and ambition of the heraldic symbol to breath venomous fire through Belgian hearts. Dragons tend to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful as they are driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. Something in which the Welsh national team symbolized to full effectiveness.
When drawn into a group consisting of Turkey, Italy, and Switzerland, many believed that any sort of re-creation of the Euro 2016 campaign would be near enough impossible. Many factors contributed to this, such as the obvious change in manager and the loss of key players (i.e., James Chester, Neil Taylor, and Joe Ledley).
Even so, the vast majority of the players who remain from the triumphs of Euro 2016 find themselves on the back-end of their careers, however, after the group stages commenced, it would appear as though this was not the case given the performances put on display. With key players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey struggling to find their feet at domestic level, that would be forgotten as they carry a nation’s hopes and dreams on their backs throughout the tournament.
It was not the blistering start that the Welsh faithful would have hoped for as they found themselves trailing thanks to a 49th minute sucker punch from Switzerland’s Breel Embolo. But as Kieffer Moore displayed a bandaged head, they saw to their wounds and landed an uppercut of their own, earning a vital point after the ninety minutes would conclude.
With momentum on their side, the Welsh then found themselves battling against every neutral’s dark horse in Turkey. However, that horse could only muster up a mere canter at best as Turkey was brushed aside rather easily, seeing Wales walk away with a 2-0 victory. Last of all, with qualification firmly in their grasp, a 1-0 defeat to Italy meant they had done enough to reach the knockout stages for consecutive tournaments — a first for the country with a population in which barely exceeds 3 million.
With Wales finishing as runners-up in Group A, it appears to be a good result considering that they will now play the runners-up from Group B, Denmark. The Danish crept into second spot thanks to a 4-1 home victory over Russia at Parken Stadium — a result that truly symbolizes the whirlwind of a tournament that the Danes have had thus far. Nevertheless, Wales holds a strong chance in advancing past the Round of 16 and head into the knockout rounds with a true sense of momentum and belief; cue shades of 5 years ago.
Could the Welsh even go one step further this year? Either way, whatever the outcome may be for Rob Page’s men, they can hold their heads high as they have once again placed the country of Wales firmly on the football map.