Football Features

Wales Euro 2020: Best players, manager, tactics, form and chance of winning

By Chris Smith

Published: 12:55, 26 June 2021

Wales have continued their 100% record of reaching the knockout stages of the European Championships every time they have entered.

Playing in only their second-ever major tournament and the first since the 1958 World Cup, the Dragons (then managed by Chris Coleman) defied all expectations by reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2016, topping a group containing England, Slovakia and Russia before dumping out Northern Ireland and Belgium in the knockout rounds. Wales were finally eliminated by eventual winners Portugal but returned from France with their heads held high.

Since then, Wales have disappointingly missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but qualified for this tournament via Group E, finishing second only to Croatia with 14 points and just two defeats from eight games. Wales also earned promotion to Division A of the Uefa Nations League for the 2022/23 season and had a mixed start to World Cup qualifying, but that’s now firmly in the past following their progression to the knockout phase of Euro 2020.

The best players Wales will bring to Euro 2020

Danny Ward

Despite not featuring at all in the Premier League for Leicester City, with his time on the pitch exclusively coming in cup competitions, Danny Ward has continued to pick up caps for Wales. In fact, the former Liverpool man took up the gloves in Wales’ last seven competitive fixtures (including Euro 2020), keeping four clean sheets and putting in a particularly impressive performance during a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland last November. Ward came into the tournament by no means the nailed on No.1, but that is no longer the case as Wales are getting a proactive ‘keeper who commands his box, is a proficient shot-stopper and can play accurate long balls to get them up the pitch quickly.

Joe Rodon

Arriving from Swansea City for £11m in October 2020, Joe Rodon has slowly but surely made his presence felt at Tottenham Hotspur. Understandably not as a first-choice centre-back just yet, the 23-year-old had a healthy run of games between the end of October and January during an injury crisis, and helped Spurs to five clean sheets during his first five appearances for the club. At international level, Rodon has started Wales’ last 12 competitive games, conceding eight goals during that time (three coming against Belgium).

Aaron Ramsey

It’s been a very mixed bag at Juventus so far for Aaron Ramsey, who has been in and out of the starting XI since joining from Arsenal in 2019. Both Maurizio Sarri and Andre Pirlo shifted him around various midfield positions to try and find his best spot, but the 30-year-old has thus far struggled to hold down a regular role, morphing into something of a utility man.

Before he was replaced by Massimiliano Allegri as Juve manager, Pirlo often defended Ramsey, claiming the Welshman ‘makes everyone play well’ but needs to have his minutes carefully managed to avoid injuries and burnout.

“Aaron, we have to carefully manage him, we have to let him rest,” said Pirlo. “But when he is 100 per cent he can be decisive, I prefer to always have him on the pitch. He makes everyone play well but he has to be managed athletically.”

At his best, Ramsey offers Wales the ultimate box-to-box option. Famous for his late arrivals into the box, Ramsey has 17 goals in 66 caps to his name so far, including a brace against Hungary during qualification for this tournament. But the former Arsenal man is also an extremely underrated defensive piece, averaging 1.81 tackles per 90 minutes in Serie A across 2020/21 and, when he’s fully fit, he’ll always put in the hard yards.

Gareth Bale

Is there a single player more important to their nation’s chances of success this summer than Gareth Bale? Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal still have an incredible squad capable of going all the way, and the same could be said for the likes of Belgium without Romelu Lukaku and France without Kylian Mbappe. But for Wales, it’s almost certainly a case of no Bale no party.

The Tottenham Hotspur loanee has scored more goals (33) than any other player in the history of the Welsh national team, while Ramsey is the only other player to receive a call-up within the past 12 months with more than five goals to their name.

Bale’s temporary return to Spurs initially looked to be a miserable one but after a barrage of criticism from pundits, the 31-year-old exploded into life in February, with a goal and assist against Wolfsberger in the Europa League kick-starting a wonderful run in the final third for the former Southampton youngster.

With three goals in the group stages, Bale was one of the stars of Wales’ run at Euro 2016, while his trophy cabinet (packed out with four Champions League titles and two La Liga medals) serves to show just how much pedigree and experience he can offer to this young squad.

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The tactics

Although they have often switched formations based on the opposition and the players they have available, Wales settled on a 4-1-4-1 set-up at Euro 2020.

Ward starts in goal, while in front of him, a back four of Rodon, Chris Mepham, Ben Davies and Connor Roberts almost picks itself.

Joe Allen is the sole holding midfielder, although Ramsey plays a box-to-box role slightly further up the pitch, joined by Joe Morrell. On the flanks, Bale and Daniel James are the danger men, with the latter leading Wales for chances created in the group stages, while the Real Madrid man does move more central to offer his support to Kieffer Moore.

Wales’ last line-up at an international tournament

The form guide

Euro 2020 qualifying: WWDDWLLW

Despite losing two of their first three games, Wales finished their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in strong fashion, winning three and drawing two of their remaining five fixtures to finish second only to Croatia in Group E, ahead of Slovakia and Hungary by one and two points, respectively.

Recent fixtures: LWDDLWWLWW

Since losing 3-0 to England in a friendly in October, Wales have won five of their past eight games, drawing two and falling to defeat against Belgium in World Cup qualifying. But they did bounce back from that defeat with a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico and victory against Czech Republic in World Cup qualifying by the same scoreline. They would go on to replicate their Euro 2016 heroics by claiming four points across their opening two Group A fixtures, including a 2-0 win over Turkey, which secured a knockout stage berth.

Wales’ Euro 2020 odds

Now they’ve progressed out of Group A, the Dragons are priced at a whopping 80/1 to go all the way and win the European Championship.

That said, if you think Bale can inspire some more European magic for Robert Page’s men, he is currently 100/1 with Sky Bet to win the Golden Boot this summer.


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