Aaron Ramsey, Neil Taylor and Gareth Bale scored the goals on a memorable night for Welsh football as Russia were beaten 3-0, sparking huge celebrations among Coleman, his players and their supporters.
The Wales manager praised his team for the character they showed in responding to the defeat by England in Lens and hailed the fans for their contribution on an evening when their singing could be heard long after the final whistle. “When you see a sea of red supporters and hear that kind of support – as a nation geographically we’re small but I think if you’re judging us on passion then we could be described as a continent tonight because that was amazing,” Coleman said.
Asked what the win and progress to the knockout stage meant to him personally, Coleman replied: “This is the best because whether you’re a player or a manager or a coach, it’s all about the points. I think the performance tonight was really pleasing. I’ve been a player myself and just missed out on a major tournament and been part of a few really good teams, so I’m so lucky now to be experiencing this as a manager. And to see your team perform like that, execute everything that you’ve worked on, that’s really pleasing. So I’m immensely proud.”
Bale is the tournament’s leading scorer with three goals, although this was not an occasion for the “one-man team” tag. “If you’ve got a player like Gareth Bale who plays for Real Madrid and scores the goal he does, I don’t mind people saying that – I can understand that,” Coleman said. “At times he has won games doing something extraordinary but anyone who’s played football knows you need team spirit.”
One of the biggest challenges for Coleman could be to control expectations before their last-16 match at Parc des Princes against one of the third-placed teams, yet he insisted that would not be a problem. “Three games ago we lost 3-0 against Sweden. Football can change really quickly – you really are king for a day. Once you get caught up with things and think you’ve arrived … you’ve never arrived in football.
“Whoever’s next is going to be a massive challenge for us. Not to say we can’t enjoy tonight. But we’re not a country that’s been at tournament after tournament, semi-finals, finals. This is new to us. It’s exciting, nerve-racking at times, a lot of pressure and tension. And our boys know that unless we’re maxing out we don’t get results. If we’re maxing out and at our best, then we’ve always got a chance.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010