Toulouse, France | AFP |
Gareth Bale scored in his third straight game at Euro 2016 to guide Wales to a 3-0 win over Russia and then revelled at getting ahead of rivals England to top their group.
England could only manage a frustrating goalless draw against Slovakia and dropped to second place in Group B.
Aaron Ramsey and Neil Taylor also scored in Wales’ easy win in Toulouse against a limp Russian side whose campaign has been tainted by their roughhouse fans.
In the last 16, Wales will play one of the four best third-placed finishers at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday.
Bale said it had probably been his best match with Wales, who are appearing in their first European Championship finals.
“The performance was probably the best I’ve been involved in,” he said.
“We started very well, we didn’t feel too nervous at the start and were very confident,” said Bale.
“To top the group, it is a dream for all of us, we said we didn’t want to just make up the numbers and we can’t do more than we have.”
Coleman said the Euro 2016 should brace for a lot more from his side.
“I said before that there’s more to come for this group.
“Even after this tournament is over, this group are on the way to something else. I’m just glad me and the staff are here with them. We have no fear. And after playing like that, why should we?” Coleman said.
England must now take on the runners-up of Group F in Nice next Monday. Depending on Group F’s final results on Wednesday it could throw up a clash against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) June 20, 2016
Wales came into the competition bursting with confidence. Coleman has inspired an underacheiving group to support Bale as he tears through opposing defences.
After two free-kick goals against Slovakia and England, the Real Madrid forward did it again against Russia.
Arsenal’s Ramsey put the ball behind the ineffective Russian defence to Bale who pushed the ball past goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
The game in Toulouse started with drama in the stadium when police arrested Russian far-right football fan leader Alexander Shprygin who had sneaked back into the country two days after being expelled over fan violence.
The rot started on the field in the 11th minute.
A brilliant Joe Allen ball through the middle set up Ramsey and the peroxide blonde-haired midfielder confidently lifted the ball over Akinfeev.
Russia manager Leonid Slutsky spend much of the match grabbing at his hair in frustration. Wales gave him plenty of reason. Slutsky said after that another manager would have to be in place when Russia host the 2018 World Cup.
On 20 minutes, Bale wove through the Russian defence and fed the ball to Taylor, whose last goal was in 2010.
Left free on the left-hand side of the penalty area with only Akinfeev to beat, his first shot hit the goalkeeper but he made no mistake with the second.
England fans suffered another night of frustration after seeing their side dominate but held to a 1-1 draw by Slovakia in Marseille.
With Prince William among the fans watching from the stands, manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to the team, starting strikers Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, who came on to score in the 2-1 win over Wales, and leaving skipper Wayne Rooney among the replacements.
Vardy squandered two clear chances of England’s nine first-half attempts on goal to Slovakia’s single effort.
He fired over early on, then had his shot blocked by goalkeeper Matus Kozacik in a one-on-one after winning a sprint against Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel.
Only a fine tackle from right-back Peter Pekarik denied Sturridge at the near post in the opening 10 minutes. And Adam Lallana was denied by Kozacik’s reflex save with half an hour gone.
A mix-up between centre-back Chris Smalling and goalkeeper Joe Hart allowed Slovakia winger Robert Mak a half-chance.
But only the slightest of deflections off Kozacik’s shoulder blocked Nathan Clyne’s shot.
There was a big cheer from England fans when Rooney came on for Jack Wilshire with 56 minutes gone. He was a constant menace but the pressure came to nothing.
“I’m pretty sure that sooner or later we’re going to make somebody, pay because if we keep dominating and creating chances like that we’re going to score goals one day,” said Hodgson.