Wales Euro 2016 Squad - Analysis & upcoming fixtures
They’re the Euro 2016’s surprise package - the Welsh side in only its 3rd major international tournament. After some immense work by the late Gary Speed, the Welsh bounced back from a 2-0 defeat in August 2011 that left them ranked 117th by FIFA – their lowest ever.
In only 3 months, they rocketed up to 45th, becoming FIFA ranking’s biggest movers in the process!
Unfortunately, the Welsh coach passed away the following month, so Chris Coleman was brought in to continue the Welsh rise. Some rough early results threatened to derail everything, but the Welsh bounced back again.
Now, they’re in the Euro 2016, and they boast a seriously exciting young squad. Let’s see if they can pull a surprise on everyone!
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Daniel Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)
Defenders: Ashley Williams (Swansea City), James Chester (West Bromwich Albion), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), James Collins (West Ham United), Chris Gunter (Reading), Neil Taylor (Swansea City), Jazz Richards (Fulham)
Midfielders: Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (Liverpool), David Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), David Edwards (Wolverhampton Wanderers), George Williams (Fulham), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Andy King (Leicester City)
Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), David Cotterill (Birmingham City), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Simon Church (Milton Keynes Dons), Sam Vokes (Burnley)
A former Wales international, Chris Coleman amassed 32 caps in a playing career that spanned 5 club sides, including Fulham (who he played for during 5 years and managed for 4 years). A former team-mate of Gary Speed, it won’t have been easy to take over his team after such a sudden, tragic ending – but he’s done it admirably.
A fiercely meticulous man, Coleman sets his team in order to neutralize or prey on the opponent's weaknesses. With the fearsome Gareth Bale and the dynamic Aaron Ramsey, the Welsh aren’t even shy to play to their own strengths – getting the ball to those two in the final third.
After signing a contract extension in 2013, he rewarded the nation by guiding them to only their second European finals. They got there playing many different shapes; all variants of Coleman’s view of the Welsh way of football. Will his elaborate plans work?
Formations & Tactics
Playing a completely different system for this competition’s qualification period, the Welsh have been using 3 defenders, 4 midfielders, their 2 superstars in front and 1 man up top.
Under him, the Welsh have consequently become very flexible. Coleman tends to get his men to follow a clear, systematic plan to take down the opposition; at times stifling possession or waiting for even one counter-attack! Their system allows for players to rapidly change their set-up on the pitch without having to alter too much.
By playing Ramsey and Bale just behind the striker, the two finest playmakers easily get on the ball in areas they can cause damage in. Moreover, the man in front of them has a job of creating space by (running at the opposing defence) for the pair behind him to exploit.
Road to the Euro Finals
Although this is their first major international tournament in 58 years, you wouldn’t know it from the way the Welsh qualified.
The first team they faced were the Andorrans - they opened the scoring but were sniped down in Slovenia by a brilliant brace from Gareth Bale. Then, the Bosnians came knocking on Cardiff, but the Welsh left with a creditable draw.
Cyprus came next, and they were hit for two before they responded with one against the Welsh in Cardiff. Chris Coleman then took his charges to play the much-fancied Belgians - a match between the two strongest teams in the group. They finished 0-0, but Wales showed that they know how to play the 90 minutes by locking down the star-studded side.
Gareth Bale pried open the Israeli defence at the end of their fixture’s first half, before Ramsey plundered another 2 goals to put them 3-0 to the good. In the following round, the Belgians went to Cardiff - and were blasted away by Gareth Bale - 1-0!
With momentum on their side, they defeated the Cypriot team by the same result before being held to a 0-0 draw by Israel. After a solid unbeaten run of 8 games, Ibisevic of Bosnia scored a 90th-minute goal that made it 2-0 to the hosts in Zenica. It was their only defeat of the qualification campaign, as they wrapped it all up with another Bale & Ramsey inspired 2-0 win over Andorra.
They scored 11 goals (distinctly 3rd best in their group) but only conceded a miserly 4 (the very best) to finish second in their group.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths: This side’s indubitably biggest strength is their capability of changing their system mid-game to suit the match. Coleman’s charges are extremely adept at transitioning from defence to attack and vice versa, blessed with bundles of pace in Bale & Ramsey and the cool heads of Joe Allen and Ashley Williams.
They can defend very well too, keeping 7 clean sheets in 10 qualifying matches. Gareth Bale scored 7 goals during the same time!
Weaknesses: A lack of experience at the top-level is surely going to be preyed on at some stage. Wales simply don’t come here often, and the sides who do will seek to exploit that by getting in their heads. Moreover, the Welsh midfield is neat and tidy but they lack some muscle - are they up for a midfield fight against some of the world’s best? There are still many questions in that regard.
Wales have proven that they’re no walk-overs simply because they’re new. They’ve been tight at the back, lethal on the counter and very tenacious to earn their Euro 2016 berth.
In Gareth Bale, they boast one of the tournament’s genuine superstars. The 2-time Champions League winner knows he’s got to carry his nation’s offensive hopes, and he’s done exactly that so far. Coleman has got them playing flexibly and intelligently; they know their roles very well.
Wales reached the quarter-finals when they were last here (1976). Anything less than that would be a disappointment, but we’re banking on them to do it.
Upcoming Fixtures and Results
5th June - Sweden vs Wales (3-0) (Friendly)
11th June - Wales vs Slovakia (Euro 2016)
16th June - England vs Wales (Euro 2016)
20th June - Russia vs Wales (Euro 2016)-