Even the most avid Wales fans won’t tell you that they believe the Dragons have any realistic shot of lifting the trophy this summer. For us, reaching the tournament proper was a huge achievement and one we should be proud of. Everything else is a bonus.
Still, we’re football fans, and we want to see our team win. That means we must redefine success if we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and put too much pressure on the boys. Results aren’t the barometers of a triumphant campaign.
Finishing Above the Home Nations
It would be a dream if this team could recreate the glory of 2016 and finish above the rest of the home nations by reaching a quarter-final or semi-final. However, with the bookies placing England as firm favourites, it might take more than getting out of the group stages.
Still, Wales could be the best of the rest as far as the UK is concerned, with Scotland seemingly in a spot of bother in Group D. Not only do they have England and Croatia to take on but Scotland vs Czech Republic odds suggest they won’t beat the only country left in the pot — their opponents are slight 7/5 favourites. Wales, on the other hand, can put in decent performances against Turkey and Switzerland, with the former ranked lower in the international rankings than the Dragons. Switzerland might be the 13th best nation in the world, but they aren’t a side to be fearful of.
At only 7/2 to qualify and reach the quarters, some supporters might dare to dream that we can go deep into the competition. Regardless, if that doesn’t happen, it’s essential to finish above the Scots to ensure the campaign isn’t a complete waste!
Being Hard to Score Against
Okay, defending stoutly isn’t straight out of Pep Guardiola’s handbook for total soccer. Of course, Wales doesn’t have the wealth of talent at his disposal. Also, it’s tournament football, so it’s vital that the team adapts to the demands of the competition.
Being hard to break down should be at the top of the to-do list for several reasons. Firstly, securing draws and snatching wins gets teams closer to the knockout stages. As long as Wales don’t lose, they could easily sneak through to the quarter-finals. Secondly, a solid defensive platform creates the ideal counterattacking opportunities for the main offensive threats.
Gareth Bale isn’t as mobile as he once was, but he’s not sluggish. Plus, what he lacks in pace he makes up for in intelligence and game management. With Aaron Ramsay, we have a silky player who will capitalise on mistakes. And Dan James is an exciting prospect with rockets on his boots. With a durable defence, we give ourselves the best chance of succeeding.
Blooding in Future Stars
Everything could go wrong from the first game, and the 125/1 outright odds of winning the Euros could plummet in minutes. Even then, the rest of the fixtures aren’t dead rubbers because there is a process for the future to worry about.
This squad isn’t equipped with lots of experience, and that’s a feature that could haunt them at some point in the summer. But it’s not just about the here and now – it’s about tournaments down the road. At some stage, Bale and Ramsay will hang up their boots, and it will be down to the likes of Harry Wilson and Dan James to replace them. The same applies to Ethan Ampadu.
By giving them game time now, the team will be in a much healthier position for the World Cup in Qatar and the Euros in 2024.
If you’re wondering what constitutes an excellent summer, qualifying from the group stage would be incredible. If not, blooding in players for the long term, making it hard to break us down, and finishing above Scotland wouldn’t be so bad.