Euro 2016: Britain breaks it

having broken through to the Last 16 of a major tournament, Wales and Northern Ireland meet as Euro exit round begins.

Paris: Two small British nations clash for the momentous prize of a Euro 2016 quarterfinal berth on Saturday when Gareth Bale’s Wales meet Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit clash in Paris.

Wales (population 3.1 million) and Northern Ireland (1.8 million) have never previously appeared at a European Championship finals, but they find themselves in the last 16 with the eyes of the continent upon them.

Having qualified above England as Group ‘B’ winners following a brilliant 3-0 win over Russia, Wales enter the game as slight favourites and Bale admits that the team’s new status is still sinking in. “We’ve come through a massive journey,” said the Real Madrid forward, who is the tournament’s joint top scorer with three goals.

“We’ve been in some bad places. We were 112th in the world and now we’re in the last 16 of the Euros. These are the days to enjoy,” he said. While the teams qualified in very different ways — Wales striding into the knockout phase as group winners, Northern Ireland squeezing through as the fourth of the four best third-placed teams — both had reason to thank their lucky stars for the serendipity of the draw.

But while Paris will be awash with beer and British song on Saturday — as well as talk about the implications of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union — there is much separating the two squads.

Northern Ireland’s terrace darlings are Wigan Athletic striker Grigg, who has not even played at the tournament yet, and goalkeeper Michael McGovern, who spent last season fighting relegation from the Scottish Premiership with Hamilton Academical.

Wales manager Chris Coleman, on the other hand, can call upon Premier League quality in the shape of players like Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen, while in Bale he possesses a potential player of the tournament.

( Source : AFP )
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