Bale and co. chasing highs of 2016 once again
Semi-finalists at Euro 2016, this is a new-look Wales team hoping to at least emulate that success.
- While some of the star names of that tournament remain, Ryan Giggs’ faith in youth has been rewarded with the emergence of a new generation establishing themselves in his plans.
- Qualification was not going to plan for the Dragons until the midway point. The introduction of Cardiff City target man Kieffer Moore provided a different dynamic and proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle. The striker has repaid Giggs’ decision with an impressive goal return.
- There is a confidence and maturity within the squad that has vindicated Giggs’ approach to creating a team in his own vision. The manager has plenty of options in the attacking third and his tactical system provides an overload in that area, but its success relies on a disciplined and solid defence.
Mirroring his own playing traits, Giggs’ side play with width and pace in attack in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. The defensive protection of a double pivot in central midfield allows the full-backs to support the forward line in this high-energy system.
Rejuvenated at Spurs, Bale is getting back to his best for both club and country.
High standards were ingrained at Manchester United and he demands the same as a manager.
Suspended for the Euro 2016 semi-final against eventual winners Portugal, Aaron Ramsey has unfinished business having experienced the highs and lows of international football. Now pulling the strings in his preferred role at the tip of the Juventus midfield, he has embraced the freedom and faith shown in his ability by coach Andrea Pirlo. L’architetto was always likely to have a high-level appreciation for Ramsey’s intelligent play and vision with the ball.
Although Gareth Bale remains the talisman of this Wales team, it is the presence of Ramsey that brings the best out of him. Injuries have severely limited the ex-Arsenal midfielder’s international involvement, but he produced on his one and only start in Euro 2020 qualifying by scoring both goals in the decisive 2-0 win over Hungary. Ramsey turned 30 in December, but his style of play will benefit from his experience at this level, and if he can avoid the niggling injuries that have proved so frustrating he can again influence and impress as he did in 2016.
Article by Mark Pitman
This article first appeared in the January Edition of World Soccer. You can purchase old issues of the magazine by clicking here.