LILLE, France – Wales produced a stunning upset to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals after Hal Robson-Kanu’s superbly fashioned goal and Sam Vokes’s late header secured a 3-1 victory over fancied Belgium on Friday to set up a clash with Portugal.
Robson-Kanu left three Belgium players for dead with a ‘Cruyff’ turn and calmly stroked his finish into the net to put Wales ahead in the second half, while Vokes’s header ensured they reached their first ever major tournament semi-final.
It was a crushing blow for heavy favorites Belgium, who had taken the lead in the 13th minute when Radja Nainggolan rifled the ball into the top corner from distance only for Wales captain Ashley Williams to level with a header from a corner.
There was a frenetic opening to a match that many had predicted would be a cagey encounter as Belgium took the early initiative and would have grabbed the lead after seven minutes but for some superb last-ditch Wales defending.
Wayne Hennessey saved superbly from Yannick Carrasco before efforts from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard were blocked by lunging defenders as Wales, looking to talisman Gareth Bale for an outlet, sought to stem the early Belgian tide.
The Welsh were undone, however, when Nainggolan took a touch, then unleashed a monstrously powerful shot from 25 metres that thundered past Hennessey’s outstretched fingers into the top corner to give Belgium the lead.
Instead of fuelling a Belgian onslaught, however, the goal seemed to swing momentum back in Wales’s favour with Chris Coleman’s side fluffing a great chance to level when Neil Taylor sidefooted at goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from six metres.
The equaliser arrived five minutes later in the 55th and was clearly crafted on the training ground. Having won a corner, Wales’s players lined up behind each other before breaking from the pack as Aaron Ramsey whipped the ball in.
Wales captain Williams, who had recovered from a shoulder injury to make the starting lineup, found himself unmarked to head down and past Courtois for the first goal the Belgium keeper had conceded since their opening defeat by Italy.
While Belgium began the second half stronger, with Romelu Lukaku glancing a header wide and Hazard flashing a shot just past the post, it was not long before Wales struck again with Robson-Kanu producing a sublime piece of individual skill.
Ramsey’s cross found the striker in the area with his back to goal but he sold three Belgium players a dummy with a trademark ‘Cruyff’ turn and then sidefooted the ball powerfully past the helpless Courtois in the 55th minute.
Belgium pushed hard for an equaliser but Wales were resilient and then broke with four minutes remaining as Chris Gunter crossed for substitute Vokes to leap and angle his header across goal into the net, sparking wild Welsh celebrations.