How far can Wales go at Euro 2016 next summer?
Although the Welsh have certainly never been notorious for delivering a great deal of footballing success throughout the years, Chris Coleman’s current side seemingly act as the stubborn anomaly alongside the traditional trend.
Gareth Bale and co. have taken to their Euro 2016 qualification duties with real conviction this time around, needing only one more point from their last two matches to secure an illustrious place in the finals next summer. Although this particular tournament will see a record 24 teams operating in France as opposed to the usual 16, Wales have nonetheless done their nation proud throughout the course of Group B.
In so far besting the likes of Belgium and Bosnia & Herzegovina – both of which were present at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil last year – the Red Dragons themselves now look on course to achieving automatic passage to Euro 2016, with a whole host of new dreams and endless expectations on board among their increasingly positive supporters.
So then, seeing as Wales haven’t actually made an appearance at a top international tournament since the 1950’s, how far can Chris Coleman’s side ultimately go at Euro 2016 next summer?
At this stage in the proceedings, Wales have all but qualified for the European Championships in 2016 – and that in itself can certainly be seen as a solid achievement on its own. Despite the likes of Ryan Giggs and Ian Rush making up just some of the fantastic individual talent on offer to the Welsh across the last few decades, going that extra mile on the international scene has seemingly always proved difficult in seasons past.
Now however, with former Fulham boss – Chris Coleman – solidly taking charge of the affairs of his national side, Wales all of a sudden look more than worthy of their recent success. Building upon the undeniably important foundations laid by the late Gary Speed just a few short seasons ago, the 45-year-old tactician has managed to install a level of confidence within this current Welsh side that feels relatively fresh and exciting.
The likes of Chris Gunter, Ben Davies and of course the resilient Ashley Williams, have provided their manager with a solid starting point at the back thus far – allowing the rest of their teammates to triumphantly push forward without being too bogged down with defensive responsibility. Yes, both Jazz Richards and Neil Taylor admittedly provide cover for their side in the wing-back positions, but such an impressive level of versatility really only serves to aid Chris Coleman’s side in the cold light of day.
The ex-Premier League coach can either opt to start a 3-5-2 formation against some of the weaker international sides, or revert to a classic 5-4-1 in the presence of the more formidable outfits on the European scene.
Coleman’s options in the middle of the park also remain equally promising however. With Aaron Ramsey in place – Wales may not quite have a world class star on their hands – but the current Arsenal enforcer nonetheless represents a level of quality usually unheard of within the traditional Welsh ranks. Alongside both Leicester City’s Andy King and Liverpool’s Joe Allen, Ramsey has an adequate amount of back-up on his hands in order to do the business out on the field for his nation.
Having made such a point though, Welsh fans have undoubtedly seen most of their recent achievement in Group B derive from the attacking areas of the pitch. Although Hal Robson-Kanu definitely provides a certain outlet in either the striker or attacking midfield position – the main man of this current group obviously arrives in the form of Gareth Bale. The current Real Madrid winger is simply in the form of his life at the moment, representing a world class star of the modern era and someone capable of changing the outcome of his respective matches at the drop of a hat.
Most teams currently operating on the international scene simply don’t have the luxury of performing with someone like Gareth Bale on board, especially among Roy Hodgson’s current set of Three Lions 'stars'. Wales’ possible success at Euro 2016 ultimately hinges on the fitness of the former Tottenham and Southampton man – for if he manages to keep in good shape throughout the course of the finals – his team will potentially surprise many at the competition next summer.
So then, although most of Chris Coleman’s starting XI mainly consists of average Premier League stars without a great deal going for them on an individual level, the overall amount of reliability and team spirirt on board remains just a strong as it’s ever been – and that’s simply what Wales require most right about now.
Yet with Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale solidly among the action, there really is no reason why Wales can’t aim as high as possible by the time Euro 2016 finally arrives…
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