The jobless who Cruyffed Belgium
Updated: Jul 03, 2016, 10:06 IST
LILLE: Currently without a club, Wales striker Hal Robson-Kanu placed himself in the shop window with a goal of shimmering audacity in the victory over Belgium.
With the score 1-1 early in the second half, the 27-year-old gathered a cross from Aaron Ramsey and took three defenders out of the game with an exquisite Cruyff turn before confidently placing a shot past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“Hal Robson- Kanu sent Thomas Meunier for a cup of tea and a piece of toast with that turn there!” said former Wales striker John Hartson. Having been released by second-tier Reading when his contract expired on Thursday, Robson-Kanu’s 55th-minute strike completed a remarkable 24 hours. He went into the tournament having scored only two goals for Wales, but has doubled his tally in France.
Dogged by an ankle injury in the build-up, he started Wales’s first game against Slovakia on the bench, but came on to scuff home a 79th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory.
He was rested for the 3-0 group-phase win over Russia and was a substitute in the 1-0 last 16 win over Northern Ireland.
But he performed valiantly on his return to the starting XI against Belgium, creating space for Gareth Bale and Ramsey.
Born in west London, Robson-Kanu spent five years on Arsenal’s books before being released aged 15, when he joined Reading.
Barring loan spells at Southend United and Swindon Town, he has spent his entire professional career at the southeast England club, scoring 30 goals in 227 games. He represented England at youth level, but qualified for Wales through his grandmother and was brought into the Welsh set-up in 2010 during the rebuilding process that took place under former manager John Toshack.
He described his historic goal saying: “I presume they thought I would lay it off — and I have Cruyffed and put it in the net.”