Euro: Air of disbelief as Wales win Group B

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Euro: Air of disbelief as Wales win Group B
Wales fans enjoyed their greatest day in football for more than half a century

Published: Tue 21 Jun 2016, 10:18 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Jun 2016, 12:23 AM

Wales enjoyed their greatest day in football for more than half a century by overwhelming Russia 3-0 on Monday to win Group B at Euro 2016 ahead of their oldest rivals England.
It was an outcome that had seemed unlikely when England beat them 2-1 last Thursday, and the thousands of Welsh supporters could have been forgiven for a feeling of disbelief as they celebrated every touch of the ball with "oles" before finally feeling free to chant "we are top of the league".
 They will play a third-placed team in Paris on Saturday while England face the Group F runners-up and Wales will go into the knockout stage with realistic hopes of reaching the last eight.
 England still qualified for the knockout stages. But the result at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard meant England was leapfrogged at the top of Group B by Wales, which could now face an easier opponent after Gareth Bale helped his team beat Russia 3-0.
 "It was never about beating England, it was about qualifying," Wales manager Chris Coleman told reporters, adding that he had never seen a better performance from a Welsh team.
 Russia, bottom of the standings with one point, obtained with an undeserved last-minute equaliser against England, go home with much to think about before they host the World Cup in two years time under a new coach. The story of the night, however, was a Welsh one.
In what had been described as the country's biggest game since the 1958 World Cup quarter-final, they rediscovered the attacking brio that enabled them to beat Slovakia in the opening game.
 In the other Group B match, Hodgson made six changes from the 2-1 victory over Wales and left captain Wayne Rooney on the bench. Although they failed to break the stalemate, his players kept the pressure up throughout the game and managed 30 shots while Slovakia rarely played in England's final third.
 "Finishing second is a disappointment," Hodgson said after his team finiswhed the group stage with a win and two draws.
"But we are still in the last 16 and who is to say the team we will play will be that much stronger? You just don't know. The way we are playing, I am not frightened of anybody."
 England created chances but failed to turn them into goals against a very defensive Slovakia side that can still advance as one of the four best third-place teams. Slovakia has four points, with England on five and Wales with six. Russia returns home with one point.
Slovakia had never kept a clean sheet in six previous games at a major tournament and had lost its three previous matches against England.
 "It was disappointing for us tonight. In the three games, we have had the majority of the possession and today we have dominated play from start to finish and we couldn't unlock the door," England defender Gary Cahill said. - Agencies

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