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If Wales aren't as good as their Euro 2016 run suggested, at least they're still just as fun

Joe Allen, Gareth Bale, and co. are still playing tough away games like no one told them they're just Wales.

One of the basic principles of the universe is that the thing that comes after the thing is rarely as good as the thing itself. The law of gravity states that what goes up must come down; the law of drinking insists that all great parties are followed by thundering hangovers; and the Lord Mayor's Show, proverbially, writes the next day off completely. So when a country has its greatest international summer -- its only international summer -- in over fifty years, as Wales did when reaching the semifinals of Euro 2016, it's fair to be a little worried about what might happen next.

Fortunately for the neutral and, perhaps, worryingly for Chris Coleman, the answer appears to be entertainment. On the plus side, Wales did lots of good things in a 2-2 draw against Austria on Thursday. Joe Allen, who is currently the best midfielder in the world*, scored a screaming, dipping, swerving, flame-trailing volley. Gareth Bale didn't have his most exciting game but still managed to make a menace of himself with the occasional dribble, a mistimed header-off-the-shoulder that -- since Bale's shoulder muscles are harder than most people's skulls -- forced Robert Almer into a Schmeichel-esque save, and several fizzing long throws.

*opinions are solely the writer's and do not reflect the opinions of Vox Media.

One of those long throws even gave us a chance to consider one of football's most enduring questions. Just before halftime, Bale hurled the ball into the box, Sam Vokes muscled a header at goal, and Almer's save rebounded off a collapsing Kevin Wimmer and back into the net. Normally, post-goal joy centers around the goalscorer or, occasionally, whoever created the goal. But when there's a defender lying on the ground in a puddle of his own shame, praying for the grass to grow up around his body, release him from human scrutiny and gift him the anonymity of the soil, nobody really knows what to do. Wales' answer here was for each Welshman to hug the nearest other Welshman, and so to eventually cohere into one great super-hug, which seems as reasonable an approach as any.

Hugging aside, the bald truth of the match is that Wales had the lead, twice, and dropped it, twice. Both Bale and Coleman acknowledged after the game that while (of course) Austria is a tricky place to go, and (naturally) they were delighted with a qualification point away from home, they didn't think Wales had played at their best. And they were right. It's not that Austria had the most of the ball -- that's how this Wales side are set up -- or that players of the quality of David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic were able to manufacture moments of danger. That can happen. It's that Wales contributed to that pressure and those moments with a general sloppiness, particularly when in possession.

Austria's goals illustrated this perfectly. The first was created by a wonderful pass from Alaba, but Arnautovic was able to drift into the box almost unimpeded; either James Chester was playing for offside, in which case he had his lines wrong, or he simply didn't pick the run. Then the second came from a minor mix-up between two Welsh defenders -- six of an over-hit pass, half a dozen of a mis-control -- which let Arnautovic through on goal. Wayne Hennessey advanced, but the forward's poked finish took a little deflection, sending it up and over the goalkeeper's legs.

The solutions to errors of this kind aren't particularly complicated -- concentration, concentration, concentration -- and certainly aren't beyond these players. But it's the kind of mistake that Wales weren't making throughout qualification for Euro 2016 (or, at least, weren't being punished for) and it's important to remember that while Bale scored most of the goals and dominated the headlines, the solidity and resilience of Wales' defending was as important a factor in that successful campaign.

Still, if the security wasn't quite there, the signs are good that the carefully cultivated team spirit and general enthusiasm that characterize this team have survived a summer's overachievement. Wales are top on goal difference, and their next game comes at home to Georgia, who gave the Republic of Ireland a bit of a scare in Dublin but are yet to pick up a point. And perhaps most importantly of all, on the fourth wearing of the unlucky grey away kit, Wales finally managed not to lose. There's a crucial away game against red-shirted Serbia coming up in June, so it's nice to have that jinx out of the way. A bit of luck, a bit more focus, and Wales just might manage to delay the hangover.