EURO 2016

Five things we learned as Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 fire was doused

Northern Ireland players devastated at the end
Northern Ireland players devastated at the end

Wales defeated neighbours Northern Ireland 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time.

Here, we consider five things we learned from the tightly-contested derby in Paris.

1. BALE WILL NOT BE SILENCED

There is no doubting Gareth Bale is a world star who never shies away from the lofty expectations on his shoulders. But in both British derbies, against England in Group B and Northern Ireland here in Paris, he has been impressively marshalled.

Yet on both occasions he has never given up and found a way to leave his mark on proceedings. Against England it was a free-kick, against Northern Ireland it the run and cross that settled the match.

It is hard to tell what more a team needs to do to keep the Real Madrid man down for a full 90 minutes.

2. THE ULSTER BOYS MAKE THE BEST NOISE

The Green and White Army might have been outnumbered by their Welsh counterparts in Paris, but they boast the biggest and most entertaining songbook.

Look beyond the ubiquitous 'Will Grigg's On Fire' and there are catchy odes to George Best, Steven Davis, Gareth McAuley and the Evans brothers.

They also had something special prepared for Bale, who was told "you're just a **** Keith Gillespie'.

3. GOOD EVANS

Given Manchester United's struggles to find a left-sided centre-half, the performances in this tournament of former Red Devil Jonny Evans must be hard to witness for fans of the club.

As against world champions Germany, West Brom defender Evans was in mighty form at the Parc des Princes despite being deployed at left-back.

Cultured and committed in equal measure, his efforts would surely have interested Jose Mourinho had he still been on the Old Trafford payroll.

4. ASHLEY WILLIAMS IS STRUGGLING

As Wales progress to a historic quarter-final, there must be concerns over their skipper.

Williams has not been at his best, with James Chester clearing up for his senior partner on more than one occasion.

He looked to be struggling physically in this match, apparently suffering with several niggles and moving tentatively at times.

A bruising collision with Jonathan Williams floored and rattled him late on and the Swansea man should be kept in cotton wool now.

5. THE EURO EXPANSION IS A HIT WITH FANS

There are naysayers who believe the new 24-team format is flabby and unnecessary. But the greater number of places proved a boost to teams and players who had never been on this stage before - even if Northern Ireland qualified as group winners.

Equally, the extra knockout places opened the door for matches like this - 90 minutes which may not go down in the competition's hall of fame but which bristled with energy, tension and brought endless excitement to two footballing nations deprived of that for too long.

Scoff if you like, but that counts.