Turkey 0 Wales 2 (Ramsey 45, Roberts 90+5)
Apologies to those of you who have been expecting my annual list of the world’s most loathsome countries, which I usually publish at this time of year. Various stuff has got in the way – not least this tournament. Once it is over I’ll get down to work – but as a taster, I’m happy to inform you that Turkey will be right up there, at number one or two.
Thuggish, bullying, inept, humourless, Turkey. If ever a football team embodied the characteristics of its government, this is the one. What a pleasure it was to see them comprehensively outclassed by a country whose population is about one thirtieth of their own. This was not a close game (Wales also missed a penalty) despite the jittery histrionics from Robbie Savage. The Turks were well beaten.
The game was played in the Turkish satrapy of oil and smog drenched Baku. It would have been better played in Stepanakert, capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, after which the world would recognise that this exclave is properly part of decent, traduced, Christian, Armenia and not the absurd Azerbaijan. After that the world might recognise the Kurdish claims for an independent state, too. Turkey needs to be taught one or two lessons.
Wales did that here. As I’ve said, there is a lot of talent in this side: they are far from simply plucky underdogs. This time Gareth Bale was effective, even if he did miss that penalty. He made both goals with a soupçon of magic, the old magic I had forgotten he still had. I thought he should have been dropped.
Wales are through to the next round, deservedly – and they may not stop there. There is a good balance to the side. Turkey meanwhile are out, pretty much. Ah, what a shame.
Man of the Match – Gareth Bale.
If Baku is in Europe, then so is Riyadh.