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Wales recorded the biggest rise in the history of the FIFA rankings, moving from 117th in 2011 to eighth in 2015 thanks to their golden generation of talent.
In their first-ever Euros back in 2016 they enjoyed a great run to the semi-finals, eventually finishing third in France. This side is quite similar to the one of five years ago and Wales may just well be the dark horse this tournament needs again.
Switzerland – Baku, Sun, Jun 12, 2pm
Turkey – Baku, Wed, Jun 16, 5pm
Italy – Rome, Sun, Jun 20, 5pm
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Their group included four sides who have qualified for the Euros – Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary. Wales finished second behind Croatia after taking 11 points from their final five games, sealing qualification with a 2-0 win at home to Hungary.
Robert Page is in caretaker charge for the tournament. He managed Port Vale and Northampton before the 41- cap defender took the Wales Under-21 job in 2017.
He likes to play high attacking wing backs, with speedy wingers and a defensive midfielder. This points towards Wales lining up with a back three, which may better suit the players in his squad.
If Page does opt for a back three, we’ll likely see Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham and Ben Davies line up at centre-back. Wales have plenty of options out wide, including Harry Wilson, David Brooks, Tyler Roberts and Dan James. Neco Williams and Connor Roberts also come into contention should he opt for a more defensive style. Ethan Ampadu and Aaron Ramsey should suit his tactics in defensive midfield and box-to-box roles.
It all depends on where Page sees Gareth Bale’s best position, as the team will need to be built around him. It’s likely Bale will start up front alongside target man Kieffer Moore, who’s had an exceptional season at Cardiff, scoring 20 league goals.
Gareth Bale. Arguably the most important player for any team in the whole competition, Bale will be vital for goal scoring, creating chances and set piece delivery. After a few years of warming the bench in Madrid, we finally saw glimpses of the player we once knew back in 2014 at Spurs this season. If Bale can get back to his best at this tournament, there’s no reason why Wales can’t cause a few shocks again.
Here’s all the key data on Wales’s squad.
- Squads and statistics correct at time of data sheet creation.
ONE TO WATCH
Kieffer Moore enjoyed his best goalscoring season this year, bagging 20 goals in 42 appearances for Championship side Cardiff. A big target man who can make life tough for defenders, if he can find a rhythm with Bale’s quality alongside him, Moore may prove vital for Wales this summer.
Still only 23 years old, Dan James appeared 21 times for Man United this season, scoring four goals. While he may not be a key man in United’s set up, he will be a starter for Wales. His lightning pace out wide gives Wales alternative options in attack and catch the opposition off guard.
They play their opening two games in Baku, Azerbaijan against Switzerland and Turkey, with their third game against Italy in Rome. It’s a slight advantage as it will allow for less travel than the Swiss, who are back and forth between Rome and Baku.
If they finish runners-up they would play the second-placed side of Group B (Belgium, Denmark, Russia or Finland). If they qualify in third place things get far more tricky.
Wales’ group may be tricky, but it’s certainly possible for them to reach the knockouts. They could easily grab a win from one of their opening two matches, which could be enough in this tournament format. Neither Switzerland or Turkey will be odds-on against Wales, which shows they should be tight games that could go either way.
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