New Ireland manager Stephen Kenny was correct about a couple of things.
Primarily, he was correct in saying Bulgaria maintain their shape very effectively. For all that you can’t really look into the Irish performance too much due to it being the start of a new regime, you absolutely can complement the Bulgarians.
Is there a notable footballer among them? Not really. But they are compact and they understand how to break into the right spaces at the right times, and with this Welsh side committing numbers in midfield, I’m not sure this is the sure thing that the traders believe it to be.
Leo Vaisanen’s miss in the Finland game is the only reason people aren’t raising massive question marks about the Welsh performance; that and a six-foot-five behemoth in Kieffer Moore up top who snatched a winner.
It was also the same centre half at fault for handing them that winning goal as he stepped up to engage Harry Wilson and left Daniel James with 40 yards of space to run into.
So, take him out and, well, who knows. This one is going to be a lot closer than people think, and we’ve got a nice little Same Game Multi that should complement the narrative quite nicely.
I admire the Bulgarians’ resolve simply because, at various points against Ireland, they simply refused to come out.
Wales will hold an equally high line on this occasion, and they’ll struggle to move the ball again. It was a defensive error that saved them in Helsinki and Bulgaria look considerably more compact than their Finnish counterparts.
On the break, they don’t commit men forward either. They simply carry the ball where effective and try to find slip passes to Midtjylland’s Bozhidar Kraev, who has a superb first touch.
Wales, for all their star power in the final third really struggled due to lack of fitness. They also committed to firing crosses down on Moore very early doors. If they do that here, they’re goosed – Bulgaria rarely lost a header to Ireland all night, except right at the death.
I’m interested in this for the price. Bulgaria won’t be scoring late on, so they’re worth a punt in the half-time result market.
It’s a tough ask to get those Welsh players who are all out of season to play twice in the space of a few days. It’s that bit easier for the Bulgarians, for whom most of the squad are in the seventh week of their league campaign.
If Ryan Giggs makes wholesale changes, expect the same – trying to find their feet. Either way, Wales are going to take their time to get up to full speed in this, and that’s if they ever really do.
I’ve made the case for Bulgaria already, and while I reckon Wales may struggle in general play, they’re deadly from set-pieces, and the visitors gave up a number of fouls in dangerous positions against Ireland. They were eventually punished by the granite forehead of Shane Duffy.
With both Gareth Bale and Wilson likely to be on the pitch, it’s ominous – so the safe play here is to give both a goal over the course of 90 minutes.
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