KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS: Wales manager Chris Coleman exhorted the team’s fans to “keep on dreaming” after a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland carried them into the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Next opponents will be Belgium or Hungary and Coleman warned that both would present different but testing problems. But that was no reason for the fans to hold back in their support or celebration of success in the Parc des Princes.
Coleman said: “We didnt play well at all. Credit to Northern Ireland who always make it difficult for their opponents. It was an ugly win but who cares? We played very well and got a result.
“I wasn’t looking forward to this game. I knew it would be tough and would take a bit of luck which was unfortunate for McAuley. But a little bit of brilliance in seconds can change your life and we were dependent on that today.”
Coleman praised Bale as “a special player not just because of his talent on the pitch but what he represents when he comes to play for Wales. It’s infectious, that mentality and attitude. I think he appreciates what he has around him in his team-mates and they certainly appreciate him.”
He also had praise for the fans.
Coleman said: “I think they sensed we were under the cosh and they stayed with us. They were fantastic – as we the Northern Ireland boys. A great advert for football. So the fans should keep on dreaming. Why not? They deserve to.”
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill thought McAuley’s own goal “a very cruel way to lose the game.”
He said: “Not many people gave us any chance but we got within a whisker of getting into the last eight. The players have been tremendous with great pride in playing for their country.
“We felt if we could keep Bale and Ramsey quiet then Wales would struggle to get momentum and that was the case. We could have created a little bit more but we lookd relatively comfortable and I didn’t see us losing a goal. It was very cruel.
“I don’t think we got what we deserved today.”