Neil Evans gives his thoughts on the match that made Wales group winners and qualify for the last 16.
1. Dai versus Goliath: The two sides were separated by just the 147 million disparity in population and Russia’s status as a world superpower, but Wales didn’t read the script – the Russian bear were humbled by a real team. Wales were wonderful from beginning to end; it could have been 10, and I am not exaggerating. The most dominant display, so far, from any team this tournament.
2. A fast start (again): Once again, Chris Coleman’s side were at it from the get go with a wonderful threaded pass from Joe Allen and a sublime Aaron Ramsey chip setting the tone for an unforgettable night. More first half goals than any other team tells its own story.
3. Rubbish Russia: I could not fathom what Russia’s tactics were meant to be. Their play was so narrow that Wales simply picked them off for the first two goals – you know it’s your night when Neil Taylor scores. Take nothing away from Wales, but Russia’s heavyweights were easy prey for the Welsh counter-punchers.
4. He doesn’t just do free-kicks: Gareth Bale terrorised the Russian defence, running and beating them at every opportunity; the interplay from Ramsey to allow Bale’s casual flick past Akinfeev was poetry that Dylan Thomas would have been proud of. He’s a superstar AND a grafter.
5. Niet!: The chaos surrounding who wanted to wear the captain’s armband for Russia was pure farce until Igor Akinfeev manned up (the only Russian who did). Mr. Putin will not have been impressed.
6. Rampaging Ramsey: Rubbish hairdo, but my goodness, the lad can play. A little spin and drag, dumping a would-be tackler on his backside, just before his delicious assist for the killer goal will live long in the memory!
7. The Welsh Pirlo: Joe Allen was untouchable, not just a passing machine, but another willing worker – chasing, tackling and running until he’d emptied the tank. Nine kilometres covered before a deserved standing ovation. Dai Iawn Joey!
8. Rubbing it in: The passage of play from the 75th minute to Bale’s substitution on 83 minutes was a lesson in keep-ball. Sure, Russia’s morale had ebbed away, but to see Wales toy with them was almost cruel! A massive exclamation mark, underlined in bold.
9. Just Look At His Face: The close up of the Welsh supporter in tears of joy was the image of the night. This is what it means to be ‘Together-Stronger’. I’d like to think that up in the heavens, Gary Speed was looking down as if to say ‘That’s My Boys’.
10. Top of the league, we’re having a laugh: You could have got a miserly five to one on Wales getting out of the group, never mind winning it. But worthy winners they were, and they deserve the reward of playing in Paris on Saturday. The journey continues.
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