The Wales fairytale is over after
elimination by Portugal but their
memories of a brilliant Euro 2016 will
remain priceless.
At the tram stop down the road from the
ground they were selling tickets for £200
a shot. The touts had English accents,
they always do.
Many of those travelling here from Wales
had already paid more, much more, at
home. Some had gone to £400 a ticket.
Others to £600.
Too much for 90 minutes of play? Maybe,
Maybe not. After all, how do you put a
price on a memory, on a landmark
moment?
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Wednesday night’s game was a moment
in Wales football history and was
priceless for fans in attendance
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Tickets for the match between Portugal
and Wales at Euro 2016 were being sold
for up to £600 by touts
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Nani wrapped up victory for Portugal
with his side’s second goal of the game
shortly after half-time
WALES RESULTS AT EURO 2016
Group stage:
June 11 – Wales 2-1 Slovakia
June 16 – England 2-1 Wales
June 20 – Russia 0-3 Wales
Ro16 : June 25 – Wales 1-0 Northern
Ireland
Quarter-final : July 1 – Wales 3-1 Belgium
Semi-final : July 6 – Portugal 2-0 Wales
For that was what this was. Win or lose,
this was Welsh history being made.
Again. In the end, it was a defeat.
Cristiano Ronaldo saw to that. A big goal
to help Portugal win a big game.
So there will be no final in Paris for
Wales, no perfect end to this fairy tale.
But this was Wales in the semi-final of a
major summer tournament. Who would
have believed it? Who would have
forecast it?
Well Andy King did as it happens. In an
interview with Sportsmail back in May,
the Leicester midfield player – brought in
on Wednesday to replace the suspended
Aaron Ramsey – broke off from talking
about his club’s Barclays Premier League
triumph to suggest that Wales could do
something remarkable that coming June
and July.
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Andy King had suggested that he thought
Wales could go on to win Euro 2016
before the tournament
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King’s comments were not used by
Sportsmail as it had seemed a ridiculous
suggestion at the time
‘I think Wales could win it,’ he said.
Not wishing King to appear silly, we never
carried those words. If newsroom spikes
still existed, they would still be on it.
Except King knew more than we did as it
turned out. Coming in to this game
everybody really was beginning to wonder
if Wales really could win it. After last
Friday’s dismantling of Belgium in Lille,
anything seemed possible.
And that is why watching Wales stand toe
to toe with Portugal here was so
marvellous. That is why £600 – for those
lucky enough to be able to afford it –
perhaps was not too much.
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It was marvellous to see a Wales side
match up against Portugal in a European
Championship semi-final
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For supporters who paid and could
afford £600, it may not have been too
much to watch Wales in the semi-final
We live in an age of instant gratification
and entertainment. Nothing lasts,
everything flies by like conversations on
the Snapchat app that disappear from the
phone screen as they move along.
But nights like this do endure, especially
when you haven’t had one before. It was
1958 the last time Wales played in a
game as big as this, remember. It was so
long ago – that Brazil game in the World
Cup – that a lad called Pele scored his
first international goal.
Out here in France, we all thought the
defeat of Russia was the highpoint. Two
Welsh guys on a tandem cycled from
Bordeaux to the south coast just to be
there and a 3-0 despatching of a
recognised European force to finish top of
a group involving England was an
achievement in itself.
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The 3-0 victory against Russia in
Toulouse had seemed like the likely
highlight of Wales’s tournament
That night in Toulouse – a fortnight or so
ago – felt like an ‘I was there’ occasion
but as it turned out it was just the start of
things.
On Wednesday the faces in the crowd and
in the media tent told their own story.
The late Gary Speed’s father, Roger, was
here. He will have noticed when the Welsh
contingent started to sing about his son
midway through the first half.
Elsewhere Mark Hughes and his assistant
at Stoke Mark Bowen were spotted. They
were in charge of Wales the last time
glory beckoned, a play-off defeat to
Russia stopping their qualification for
Euro 2004 in its tracks in Cardiff.
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Roger Speed, the father of the late Gary
Speed, was in attendance on Wednesday
night to watch Wales
Players from that squad were here, too.
Nathan Blake and Iwan Roberts, the latter
with a Wales scarf tied round his neck.
Men like that came close 12 years ago but
no bitterness remains. They weren’t here
last night as ex-players or managers but
as Welshman seeking ownership of a tiny
piece of history.
Until recently, of course, the Welsh only
left home to go on holiday or watch the
rugby team. Not anymore.
On Wednesday the way that Wales have
played throughout this tournament was
illustrated by the way that Portugal set
out to play. This was Portugal, a nation
that has featured in seven major semi-
finals.
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In the past, sports fans from Wales were
only ever likely to leave the country to
watch the rugby abroad
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Mark Hughes, left, who led Wales to the
brink of a tournament in his time in
charge, was also at the match
But here they sat back from Wales for
periods. They didn’t seek to impose
themselves, they didn’t press.
It seemed as though they were a little
wary of Wales, a team adept at striking on
the counter in France.
To Chris Coleman’s Wales players, the
Portuguese approach merely represented
an invitation. Gareth Bale certainly saw it
that way and that was no surprise.
One gallop through the middle of the
Portugal midfield ended with a shot
fielded by goalkeeper Rui Patricio and
prompted Ronaldo to turn and gesture
towards his team’s coaching staff. At that
moment it was clear who was winning the
battle of the two big noises from Madrid.
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At one point it looked as though Bale
was winning the battle of the Real
Madrid superstars against Ronaldo
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Real team-mates Ronaldo and Bale
embraced after the end of the game as
Portugal reached the final
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Wales had a spell in the game in which
they were the better side, with Hal
Robson-Kanu impressing for them
Soon after Hal Robson-Kanu – who does
not lack confidence – made a mug of
Bruno Alves and crossed for King to head
over. Wales were, at that moment at least,
the better team, the team that had a
recognisable plan that they knew could
work.
In the end, Ronaldo did for them. The leap
above James Chester to score the first
goal was majestic. The mishit shot to set
up Nani’s goal soon after was a little
lucky.
So Wales were downed by the best player
in Europe. No shame in that. It was still
worth the money.
Earlier in the day In Paris, meanwhile, a
young lady became the one millionth
visitor to the fanzone at the Eifel Tower.
She was Welsh and her prize was a ticket
to Sunday’s final.
On behalf of a nation that have lit up this
tournament – on behalf of a team that
has made us all feel a bit better about
ourselves – it is to be hoped that she
goes.
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It took Cristiano Ronaldo – the best
player in Europe – to finally knock Wales
out of the tournament in France












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