Hal Robson-Kanu on Wales’ incredible Euro 2016 & that goal vs Belgium – Euro Memories

Robson-Kanu: "I wasn’t really thinking too much about the goal. It was only after when you logged into social media and you saw the response that it got was like 'ok, that must've been special'"

Hal Robson-Kanu
Image: Hal Robson-Kanu scored twice at Euro 2016, against Belgium and Slovakia

Euro 2016 provided many special moments for the smaller footballing nations in Europe. Iceland’s Vikings were thunderclapping after knocking England out, Will Grigg was on fire for Northern Ireland (without actually playing), and Hal Robson-Kanu scored a goal which has gone down in Welsh folklore.

July 1, 2016. A humid evening in northern France. Lille's Stade Pierre-Mauroy was full of fans wearing red as Wales came up against Belgium in the quarter-finals.

Marc Wilmots' side were one of the tournament's favourites, and that was no surprise as they lined up with stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

Radja Nainggolan opened the scoring for Belgium with a 30-yard wonderstrike, before Ashley Williams equalised on the half-hour mark, powering home a header from a corner.

Then came that goal. With 55 minutes on the clock, the ball fell to Robson-Kanu in the box. As Marouane Fellaini and Thomas Meunier closed him down, a swift Cruyff turn left them bewildered. The No 9 then slotted coolly past Thibaut Courtois in goal, sparking delirium in the Welsh end. Wales went on to win 3-1.

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"It was a special moment," Robson-Kanu explained. "Looking back, it was more that we'd just beaten Belgium in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

"I wasn't really thinking too much about the goal. It was only after when you logged into social media and you saw the response that it got was like 'OK, that must've been special'.

"The feeling of winning that game, particularly after going behind in that game, against such a top team was probably the most special moment for me and the nation because it meant so much to everyone.

"In terms of the goal, I still get it sent to me pretty much everyday whether it's on social media, or by friends and family. It's obviously a part of the Welsh nation's history and I'm pleased to have played my part in it."

Wales Euro 2016
Image: Wales reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals in their first appearance at the competition

Chris Coleman's team were the first Welsh side to qualify for a European Championships and it was their first major international tournament appearance since the 1958 World Cup.

"It was a special experience and something as a group of players we had worked so hard towards," Robson-Kanu said. "We'd been together for eight to 10 years - a lot of us came through the U21s and then into the first team.

"To actually have qualified for the campaign, it was a massive achievement. To have done what we did, I think it spoke volumes of the group, the manager Chris Coleman and the nation as a whole.

"A lot of people wrote us off as soon as we got there, without any of us playing in a major international tournament before, but the morale of the team and the confidence of the group internally made us feel that we could definitely achieve something special."

Gareth Bale & Hal Robson-Kanu
Image: Gareth Bale scored three goals for Wales at the tournament

Wales did have one major weapon in their armoury. The most expensive footballer in the world at the time - Gareth Bale.

The Real Madrid forward scored in every group game: a 2-1 win against Slovakia, which featured a Robson-Kanu winner; a late 2-1 defeat against rivals England; and a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Russia.

Euro 2016 Wales vs England
Image: England beat Wales 2-1 in the group stage of Euro 2016

When asked how influential and talismanic Bale was in that Welsh side, Robson-Kanu replied: "Massive! But we had key players all over the pitch.

"Aaron Ramsey off the striker, Joe Allen in midfield, Ashley Williams at the back, Wayne Hennessey in goal - we had a very, very strong spine and we had people who could win games for us.

"The game against England was a relatively close game. In the end it was a disappointing result but we managed to qualify through the group. Every time we had success, whether it was a win or even scoring a goal, it was a highlight of the tournament because it took us on to the next stage."

Image: Robson-Kanu plays for West Brom, who restart their Championship season against Birmingham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Football

A Gareth McAuley own goal saw Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in the last 16, before arguably the game of the tournament against Belgium.

Coleman's side would go on to lose 2-0 in the semi-final to eventual champions Portugal, but they had already written their names into the history books thanks to that night in Lille.

"In the semis, the disappointment was Aaron Ramsey being suspended for that game," said Robson-Kanu. "I think if he had been available we would have unlocked the Portuguese defence and hurt them a little bit more, so that was probably the only real disappointment because we knew we could have picked up a win in that game.

Aaron Ramsey
Image: Aaron Ramsey was suspended for the semi-final defeat to Portugal

"It was such a special occasion for the nation. When we arrived back we had an open-bus tour and it was like we came home heroes which was special. If you ask any Welsh man or woman what was their favourite summer over the last decade, I'm sure they'll say 2016!"

Euro 2016 may have been Wales' first experience at UEFA's flagship international event, but they have qualified for the next tournament now due to take place in 2021. Could they go one better?

Euro 2020 may not be taking place this summer, but Sky Sports will be bringing you exclusive interviews in our Euro Memories series throughout the month. Next up on Thursday, Phil Thompson reflects on his time at the 1980 tournament in Italy.

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