2 min “If Wales haven’t qualified for a major tournament since ‘58,” says Mark Lannen, “how were they in the quarterfinals of the Euros in ‘76?”
There were only four teams in the finals of Euro 76. Wales reached the last eight before losing to Yugoslavia. But Uefa still calls it the quarter-finals, and Uefa’s word is gospel in my house.
1 min Peep peep! Wales, in red, kick off from left to right. Northern Ireland are in their white change strip. This is the first meeting between two British sides in the knockout stage of a major championship.
“Anthems,” says Simon McMahon. “1-0 to Wales already.”
More like 10-9. They were both magnificent, but Wales’ was off the scale.
“Will Grigg’s on … the bench,” says Andy Gordon. “Again. If he doesn’t get to play, he could help by painting a George Best mural on the gable end of McGovern’s goal netting.”
24 June 2016 was a great day for Europe. Eric made this video.
This won’t detain you for long. Wales are unchanged; Northern Ireland bring in Kyle Lafferty for Conor Washington.
Wales (3-4-1-2) Hennessey; Chester, A Williams, Davies; Gunter, Allen, Ledley, Taylor; Ramsey; Bale, Vokes.
Northern Ireland (4-5-1) McGovern; Hughes, McAuley, Cathcart, J Evans; Ward, Davis, C Evans, Norwood, Dallas; Lafferty.
Referee Martin Atkinson (England).
Hello. There are many ways to judge the quality of a tournament – goals per game, number of great matches, your own experience and so on – but one of the most underappreciated is the quality and charm of the stories. That’s why Italia 90 was so great, and why Euro 2016 has been much more enjoyable than a miserable average of 1.92 goals per game would suggest. The joy of the underdog has defined the tournament so far, with the success of Wales, the two Irelands, Slovakia, Albania, Iceland and Hungary, Poland and Switzerland redeeming an otherwise modest group stage.
The 24-team-Eurosceptics were only partially right. It is probably a bad thing in the long run – elite competitions should be just that – but the novelty of so many new teams in this tournament has been a beautiful, beautiful thing. There is little of the grouchy entitlement of the established teams, just innocent enthusiasm and infectious charm. Thousands of supporters – and hundreds of players – will look back on this as the time of their ‘kin lives.
For some, the best is yet to come. Picture this: in a few hours’ time, either Wales or Northern Ireland will be in the last eight of the European Championship. The last eight. The last eight. The last eight. The last eight. Wales have not reached that stage since 1976; Northern Ireland have never done so. The winners will play Belgium or Hungary in Lille on Friday night, knowing that 25 June 2016 has already gone down in history.
Kick off is at 5pm in Cardiff and Belfast, 6pm in Paris.