Joe Allen believes Wales are set for a bright future under manager Chris Coleman after their stunning run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
Playing at a first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, Wales enjoyed memorable victories over Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium.
Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani ended their dream as Portugal secured a 2-0 win in Wednesday’s semi-final at the Stade de Lyon.
After the match, Coleman reiterated the point he has made throughout the competition – that Wales’ progress will not end with their exploits in France – and Liverpool midfielder Allen believes the former Fulham, Coventry City and Real Sociedad boss will remain a key figure in their ongoing revival
“He’s brilliant, he makes sure every box is ticked before going on the pitch,” he said.
“The biggest testament you can give to him is everyone loves playing for him, we give absolutely everything for him as manager.”
Allen struggled to pick one defining moment out of a magical month but felt particular satisfaction when substitute Sam Vokes headed home to seal a 3-1 quarter-final win over Belgium – the side sitting second in FIFA’s world rankings.
“To be involved in a major tournament has been a dream come true for all of us,” he explained. “We all know how long the wait has been, it’s been very long so even to have been in the group stages was incredible, to reach the semi-finals has surpassed everything we expected and the whole nation is proud.
“In the Belgium game, when Vokesy gets the third goal and it looks like that will be enough, that is a huge moment for us.
“The celebrations on the pitch, the singing, they are moments that will stick with you forever.”
Ronaldo’s third goal of the tournament proved pivotal to the outcome in Lyon and came after a first half where Portugal’s three-time Ballon d’Or winner was well-shackled by Wales’ three centre-backs.
West Ham defender James Collins, making his only start of the tournament, enjoyed plenty of success in some robust duels with the Real Madrid superstar but acknowledged his ability to produce world-class moments – in this instance a remarkable leap and unstoppable header on the end of Raphael Guerreiro’s 50th-minute cross – proved the difference.
“I was enjoying it, first half it went very well, Collins said. “We knew they were going to chuck a lot of crosses in. We were ready for that, we worked on it in training.
“It was going well but then to concede two goals so quickly knocked the stuffing out of us.
“To be honest, I don’t think [Ronaldo] did anything amazing in the game but he scored the first goal, which is always going to be vital.
“He’s a world-class player who has performed again on the world stage.”
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