Wales celebrate Euro quarter-final berth and will hope for more

Gareth Bale celebrated with his daughter on the pitch and he and his Wales team also had most of Sunday to spend with their families before refocussing on their ongoing Euro 2016 adventure.

The Real Madrid star Bale provided the assist as an own goal from Gareth McAuley gave them a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland in a dour last 16 game Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

"It is something special to celebrate with the family," Bale said after enjoying himself on the pitch with his daughter Alba, and other players with their children, in front of their elated fans.

Manager Chris Coleman readily admitted to an ugly and lucky win but all that counts now is that Wales are in the quarter-finals where they meet Hungary or Belgium on Friday in Lille.

Coleman was more than happy to have overcome stubborn resistance from Northern Ireland in a second "Battle for Britain" for his team, following the group stage game with England which ended in a late 2-1 defeat.

"It was tougher than I expected. It is a different feeling when you play one of the home nations," he said. "Hopefully we are not having another one."

Playing Belgium or Hungary is not only better for the manager's nerves it could also give Bale and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey more space, after they were almost completely taken out of the game by Northern Ireland.

Coleman said he has no preference, naming Belgium "very dangerous" and saying "Hungary have added to the tournament" as he will prepare the team at their base camp in Dinard from Monday onwards.

"Both pose different problems for us. I can't say I prefer this one or the other one. It will be another tight game. We will prepare as we always do," he said.

Preparation will start after the family day Sunday which Coleman named important because after a training camp and now some three weeks in France "we need to be away from each other for 24 hours."

Wales are fearing for captain Ashley Williams who injured his shoulder in a late collision with team-mate Jonathan Williams. He completed the match but had the shoulder bandaged immediately after the final whistle, with a scan set for Sunday.

The collision between the two Wales players was somewhat fitting for the game, just as the own goal which settled it.

Wales lacked the spirit and flair from their wins against Slovakia and Russia, contained by a resilient Northern Ireland team and managing neither a shot on goal apart from a Bale free-kick and not winning a corner kick either.

"It was a turgid and torturous game, heavy on physicality and sorely lacking in class," British paper The Guardian said, and Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung suggested that "the game couldn't have become worse if someone had exchanged the football for a rugby ball."

That didn't matter to the fans and team though as sheer joy prevailed to have matched their best performance at a major event with the last eight berth, as at the 1958 World Cup which had marked their last showing on a big stage until the Euros in France.

"We had no idea what would happen in terms of reactions. Back home its off the chart. We had no idea of the impact it would make. It is absolutely incredible," Coleman said. "We had to wait long enough."

Last update: Sun, 26/06/2016 - 11:17
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