Much more to come from Wales insists coach Chris Coleman
CHRIS COLEMAN believes Wales' historic run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals is just the beginning.
Less than five years after being ranked 117th in the worl and following some extremely difficult times, Lyon bore witness to the biggest match in Welsh football history. An inspiring and improbable journey in France saw Wales through to the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time, but Portugal proved too much of a hurdle to overcome on Wednesday evening.
A monstrous second-half Cristiano Ronaldo header was quickly followed by Nani prodding home and Coleman's men were unable to muster the required response as they went down 2-0. Sunday's Stade de France finale against France or Germany may have evaded them, but Wales return home as heroes - with the chorus of songs that echoed long into the night a sign of the welcome that awaits them.
"It was our turn to lose tonight, but I told the players that, whatever the end date was at this tournament, it is not the end for this group of players," Coleman said.
"They'll be there a lot longer than I'll be there as a manager, no doubt. This was another test for us tonight, another challenge. We didn't come through it, but we've come through some big ones previously. We've faced all sorts of challenges as a squad and as a group and they've come through every one.
"Tonight was one too far for us, but I've told them all how proud I am of them, the nation is proud of them. I think, once they settle down a bit in the next day or two, they've got to be proud of themselves. We know what we're good at, we won't change what got us here in the first place.
"We have got to go into the next campaign with the same hunger and that we really focus on now. The same hunger and desire as we've had in this last two to three years. That's what I've told them. I can't tell you how proud I am - I am prouder of this team than any team I've ever been involved in because I know what they've sacrificed to get to this stage. When you give so much then you can't give any more. Results are going to be what they're going to be. I think they'll probably end up going back to Cardiff to a nice welcome and they deserve that."
Wales have captured the imagination at Euro 2016, with their pride, passion and intensity underlining a bright and exciting future. That mixture of attitude and aptitude means Coleman cannot fathom it taking another 58 years to reach a major tournament: "It's always been that, qualifying regularly," he said when asked if regular tournament qualification was an achievable aim.
"There was a psychological barrier we needed to go through qualifying for the first one, given it had been so long. We've done that, we've sampled tournament football and there's nothing like it. It's the best experience you can imagine. It is such a healthy, positive vibe with all the game, people from all different countries. I've never seen anything that, never witnessed anything like that. I've absolutely loved it. We want some more of that, we need some more of that so, now, the one thing that will stop us from doing it again is ourselves.
"We're good enough. We have got to be hungry, we have to have the same hunger and desire and that's it. And then we'll give the World Cup campaign a hell of a crack."