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The Loneliness Of The Short Distance Reporter. No.3 June 13th 2016

Should've blogged yesterday really, but there's not much to say about long interminable waits in airport departure lounges awaiting delayed connecting flights. And I'd come across as a moaner, which I'm not really.

I've had a few moans come my way on social media for suggesting that Wales' win over Slovakia was a perfect example of their togetherness and commitment-and no little skill from Bale, Allen and others too. But that's not enough to escape the 'lucky' tag from some correspondents to me and talk of a 'scuffed winner'.

So what?

It's the 'scuff that dreams are made of' in my book. Social media has long been a place where some people are desperate, DESPERATE to oppose your view in order to antagonise. You can easily tell the numbnuts apart from those who don't necessarily agree with you but have an ability to debate it like a grown up. Sadly the latter are few and far between. I've generally followed those fans who've displayed a modicum of intelligence in their tweets or messages to me, and it's as heartily recommended as muting the abusive at the other end of the evolutionary scale.

I mentioned before the tournament how free kicks could become an important aspect of Euro 2016. Let's not forget that the 'vanishing spray' has now taken away all doubt that the wall is correctly positioned and that it places those with the ball at their feet with a newly enhanced advantage. Bale exploited it, Dier too. Srna almost did for Croatia yesterday. Ronaldo will surely profit for Portugal soon enough, and Payet will be high on confidence himself when France continue their group stage games.

The art of the free kick had become somewhat lost in the lottery of wall placement - now that 10 yards MEANS 10 yards, the chief exponents have the ideal top class stage on which to strut their stuff.

Belgium v Italy for me tonight. The Italians will miss Marchisio hugely in central midfield but the Juve defence & GK are notoriously tough to breach. And that's why Marc Wilmots' approach for the Belgians worries me. Is he willing to let the handbrake off a bit to allow a bit more expression from the undoubtedly talented players he has, and do they now possess the 'club' mentality that Wales have in abundance. Teams beat individuals so so often. That said, Italy need one of their strikers to do a 'Schillachi' and blossom on the biggest international stage. Pellè perhaps?

I have no stories to report about my colleagues, as they all disappeared back to Paris or Dinard very early on Sunday morning, so much as I would like to regale you with stories of debauched behaviour from the likes of Danny Gabbidon or Scott & Dave my production team, they all scarpered quick sharp leaving me o sole mio for a bit.

The Welsh press pack were ones I felt especially happy for. When a guy like Rob Phillips, who's spent years watching his country's heartache under Hughes, the tension with Toshack and the aching sadness post-Speed, has what was clearly the greatest day of his broadcasting life seeing a debut victory at a Euros you can only feel so so happy for the bloke, and many like him who follow Wales with the spoken and the written word. I'd advise you all to read 'Together Stronger', a book written by Welsh football scribe Chris Wathan about the rise of this nation from a side so far down the FIFA rankings they were almost a footnote. It's a brilliant read and captures perfectly the strength and yet disbelief at times that all concerned within the FAW had as the wonderful change in fortune unfolded.

I'll be in Toulouse commentating on Wales' crucial game with Russia at the end of the group stage. It's no longer a long shot that they become the first nation since Croatia 20 years ago to progress through the group stage at the first time of asking. Granted, the 3rd place qualifier places up for grabs do make the notion of qualification easier, but it's no less impressive were Coleman's side to make it. Based on what I saw from players (team ethic, skill, belief), management (smart substitutions, knowing what works best for the players available) and the incredible support (I've rarely heard a noise like it at a ground before during or after), Wales would be a welcome and refreshing addition to the Round of 16.

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