Wales’ march to Euro 2020 is a remarkable success story, the magnitude of the achievement under Ryan Giggs perhaps requiring a greater depth of explanation to put it fully into context. Football fans can book Wales Euro Cup Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
This is not just about Giggs managing to do something in 1 of these wins or bust Cardiff qualifiers that proved beyond Terry Yorath (Romania 1993), Mark Hughes (Russia 2003) and Chris Coleman (Ireland 2017), thus banishing some of the demons.
It is about so, so, much more than that. This is a tale of how a team in transition, littered with Championship footballers for most of the campaign and with stellar talents, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey playing together just once, battled against the odds to achieve the dream.
It is only when you sit down and analyse just how far, and how quickly, Wales have come under Giggs that the extraordinariness of the feat really sinks in. He ruthlessly ripped up the side that achieved so much in the last Euros and went about implementing his own style and methods.
Wanting a team of young players who will get better and are capable of lighting up the tournament of Euro 2020 next summer with their skill, energy, effervescence and fearless approach. Choosing to dispense with so much experience and know-how in one go could have backfired spectacularly.
Giggs had a vision and felt it was worth taking the risk for the rewards it could bring.
Out with the old guard
So out went captain colossus Ashley Williams, replaced by Gareth Bale as skipper, and who suddenly and unexpectedly found a clutch of younger defenders Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon, Tom Lockyer ahead of him in the pecking order. Giggs felt they offered greater mobility and solidity at the back.
Many questioned his judgement, right up to Tuesday night’s selection against Hungary. The manager was hardly proven wrong. Euro 2020 fans can book Hungry Euro Cup Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
If Ash was the biggest casualty, Chris Gunter, at just 28, was a close second. Wales’ record cap holder was replaced by Connor Roberts, whose greater energy, pace and threat going forward suited Giggs’ more modern-looking and offence-orientated team.
The way Roberts, on the right, and Ben Davies, on the left, were given licence to continually rampage on the overlap against Hungary was a joy to behold at times. Neil Taylor, another Euro 2016 kingpin, also lost his place. Joe Ledley fell by the wayside.
Andy King, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes, 3 more to feature in that epic win over Belgium in Lille, also found themselves out of favour. Euro 2020 fans can book Belgium Euro Cup Tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
Chris Coleman had in the main set his team up to become “comfortable being ucomfortable.” His own catchphrase, which meant sitting deep with five at the back, soaking up the pressure and trying to hit with precision on the break. They did it spectacularly well at times, less so at others.
Giggs wanted a more vibrant, adventurous side, almost Manchester United-like in their pass and move at pace approach, and that meant bold alterations from back to front pretty much from day one.
In came a bunch of rookies. Harry Wilson, from the cold. Fellow young guns like Dan James, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu were given their head. The defence was shaken up. Pack the side with as many ball players as possible and give them a licence to thrill.
Hungary was a masterclass in how to control a huge match. It was almost football poetry at times, Giggs’ work coming to fruition perhaps sooner than even he anticipated, with the 2022 World Cup the real goal.That didn’t mean it was plain sailing throughout.
Many fans, the stunning Euro 2016 exploits still fresh in minds, questioned Giggs’ decision to ditch the old guard. As recently as this summer, he had to put up with reports from London alleging a dressing room revolt following defeats in Croatia and Hungary.
Some revolt, eh? Giggs didn’t let the criticism, nor the claims, divert him from the task in hand. If anything he made the team dynamic even younger as he put his own stamp on things.
Of the side that beat Azerbaijan, to set up the epic night against Hungary, seven were aged 24 or younger. An eighth, Ben Davies, is still only 26.Mark Hughes once left Wales with the worst-case scenario, an ageing team that had failed to win a competitive game for two years.
Under Giggs we have a young side that has qualified, but will invariably get even better.The future really couldn’t be looking more golden – or perhaps red would be a more appropriate colour – right at this particular moment in time.
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