Paris (AFP) – Wales star Gareth Bale and coach Chris Coleman expressed their delight after Saturday’s “ugly” 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in the last 16 at Euro 2016.
Wales progressed to the quarter-finals in their maiden European Championship appearance courtesy of Gareth McAuley’s own goal at the Parc des Princes.
Bale and his team-mates were frustrated by a dogged Northern Ireland defence. The Real Madrid forward was simply happy to be on the winning side.
“What can I say? We knew it was going to be an ugly match,” Bale said.
“Northern Ireland made it difficult to play. There was not much space up front. You can’t ask for anymore. It’s incredible.”
Coleman echoed those thoughts and praised the efforts of the Northern Ireland players.
“We didn’t really play well at all, but it wasn’t our fault. Credit to Northern Ireland who did what they do very well, that’s make it difficult for their opponents,” said Coleman.
“It’s an ugly win but who cares. I’ve sat here before after we’ve played very well and not got a result.
“It’s a good sign, our three wins out of four that we’ve had have come in different ways.”
Northern Ireland were the second British opponents Wales have faced, following a 2-1 group-stage loss to England. Coleman said he was glad to see the back of such fixtures.
– Emotions win –
“I wasn’t looking forward to this game in the sense I knew it was going to be a tough one,” he said.
“There’s a different feeling when you’re playing one of the home nations, we would have been better off facing Turkey.
“Not because it would have been easier but because it’s a different type of game. I was always nervous coming into this game, you have to work on not getting too emotional.”
Wales forced Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern into just one save — from a Gareth Bale free-kick — and were grateful luck was on their side in Paris.
“With so much riding on this game, it was really going to take a goal with a little bit of a luck and we got that. The luck came our way and we’ll take it,” said Coleman, who again refused to be drawn on how far Wales could go.
“We will never ever look past the next challenge because we can’t afford to.”
Wales will face Belgium or Hungary in Lille next Friday for a place in the semi-finals.
Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill said the result had been heart-breaking and his side deserved better.
“I felt it was a very tight game and I felt we had the better of it to be honest,” said O’Neill.
“It was a very, very cruel was to lose the game. I didn’t think we deserved to lose, certainly with that nature.”
While reaching the knockout stages was already an achievement, O’Neill did not draw any immediate lessons.
“It’s difficult to reflect on the tournament as a whole right now.
“I think we came into this and not many people gave us any chance of doing anything in the tournament and then we come within a whisker of the last eight.
“I don’t think would have been undeserved if we’d got there. It was a fantastic experience and I don’t think we got what we deserved today.”
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