TOULOUSE: Gareth Bale insists Wales will not be celebrating to excess but said the tournament debutants will happily soak up the plaudits as they wait to find out their last 16 opponents at their “amazing” Euro 2016.
On only their second appearance at a major finals following their elimination to a Pele winner for Brazil in the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, Wales have returned to the international football stage with a bang.
A 3-0 rout of hapless Russia on Monday made amends for a 2-1 defeat to England and fired the Dragons to the top of Group B after England were held to a goalless draw with Slovakia.
Wales have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to find out if they meet the third-placed finisher from Groups A, C or D.
But while celebrations are on ice, Real Madrid forward Bale said they will happily enjoy the moment before Wales turn their attention to trying to qualify for the last eight at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday.
“We’re professionals,” Bale said when asked if the Welsh team would celebrate by downing a few beers, although he himself is reportedly teetotal.
“We’re going to enjoy the moment, but come tomorrow (Tuesday), come the next day, we’ll see who we get and start to prepare.
“We don’t know who we have yet. I’m sure that once we know, we’ll look at that game and that game only.”
Given Wales’ comparative lack of history at major finals, Coleman said dreaming of bigger things just won’t be allowed.
“This is new for us, it’s exciting. But three games ago we lost 3-0 against Sweden, so I don’t have to remind the players,” he said.
“Football can change really quickly. Once you think you’ve arrived… you’ve never arrived in football.”
But after an unforgettable night for the Welsh at a Toulouse stadium brought to life by a Red Army singing ballads throughout the 90 minutes, fans would beg to differ.
– Six-year goal drought –
Man of the match Aaron Ramsey, the Arsenal striker, put Wales ahead after 11 minutes.
And when the Russians rushed to crowd Bale in midfield nine minutes later, wing-back Neil Taylor was given a free run down the left to run in and beat Igor Akinfeev at the second attempt.
It was his first goal in any competitive game since he scored for Welsh club Wrexham, in the lower leagues, six years ago.
Bale, however, was a constant threat and after seeing Akinfeev thwart several of his efforts the Welsh superstar added a third in the 70th minute with a delicate dink past the Russian ‘keeper.
Bale, now the tournament’s top scorer, became the first player since Czech striker Milan Baros in 2004 to score three goals in the first three group games of the competition.
For Coleman, who as a player suffered the disappointment of narrowly missing out on qualifying for a major finals, his side’s all-round performance made him “immensely proud”.
“Nights like tonight when you see your supporters celebrate like that… as a nation, geographically we’re small. But for heart, we were a continent tonight,” said Coleman.
“I’ve been a player myself. I’m so lucky to be experiencing something now as a manager, at a tournament, and to see the team perform like that, it’s really pleasing.”
Bale, who won his second Champions League trophy with Real Madrid in Milan last month, admitted Monday’s game was “one of the best team performances I’ve been involved in”.
But after Wales remedied their poor possession game following a 2-1 defeat to England, he believes they have more to offer.
“We spoke after the England game about the need to keep the ball a bit better,” he added.
“We did that tonight… and when you do that, you get opportunities to do what you do best.
“It was a great team performance from everybody. I don’t think Russia were weak… I think we were just very, very good.
“It was an amazing team performance. A credit goes to everybody tonight. Even the fans were incredible, the support has been amazing back home.
“Hopefully we can keep making them proud.”