UEFA Euro 2020 Preview: Wales
UEFA ranking: 12
How they qualified: Runners-up in qualifying Group E
Euro 2016 performance: Semi-finals
Previous European Championship appearances: 1
Best result: Semi-finals (2016)
Wales have qualified for only their third major international tournament, and second European Championship ever. Their last European Championship outing was a rather successful one, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and beating #1 ranked Belgium in the process. In the semi-final, they were beaten by eventual winners Portugal, but The Dragons made their country proud in France. They are back again for their first-ever consecutive international tournament, and while expectations might be high after 2016, they will have to be more realistic this time around. Wales have lost their manager Ryan Giggs after the former Manchester United winger was arrested in 2020, which will undoubtedly cause some disruption to the team.
Wales legend Ryan Giggs was appointed as the manager of the national team in 2018, succeeding the departing Chris Coleman who led the team to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Under Giggs’ management, Wales managed to qualify for this summer’s tournament, but in 2020 he was arrested for alleged assault. Following Giggs’ arrest, assistant manager Rob Page took over as caretaker manager for Wales. The 46-year-old will be taking charge of Wales at Euro 2020, and questions will be asked whether he will be able to lead his nation to similar success as was witnessed in 2016 by Chris Coleman. Page has limited managerial experience, with his only experience coming in the form of lower league English sides Port Vale and Northampton Town. In 2017 he was appointed as the manager of the Wales U-21 team, followed by an appointment as senior team assistant in 2019.
Gareth Bale is Wales’ biggest star, even if he is perhaps not the same player as he was in 2016. The Wales captain and all-time top scorer is on the back of a relatively successful loan spell back at former club Tottenham Hotspur, even if the club’s performances have not indicated that. While Bale’s role at Real Madrid after this season is unclear, his role for the Wales national team is that of a leader and key player that everyone else looks up to. The Welsh forward was on fire for his country at the last European Championship, scoring in every group game for The Dragons. While the now 31-year-old is slowly edging towards the latter stages of his career, he still has enough quality to lift this Wales squad and potentially lead his nation to more success this summer.
Euro 2020 Chances
Wales have been drawn in Group A alongside Italy, Turkey, and Switzerland, and the Welsh will have a battle on their hands to replicate their success from five years ago. Italy will be the clear favourites to top the group, but second and even potentially third place is up for grabs. With only 10 goals in qualifying makes it difficult to see where the goals will come from, and with strong defences like the defences of Italy and Turkey, Wales will need all of their attacking talent to be at the top of their game if Wales are to have any chance of progressing at Euro 2020.
David Brooks had a breakout season in 2018-19 at Bournemouth after sealing a £10 million move from Sheffield United. In the consequent season, Brooks was linked with some of the biggest Premier League clubs, most notably Manchester United. While following Bournemouth’s relegation after the 2019-20 season the rumours of a move slowly silenced, a Championship season that resulted in 5 goals and 6 assists might prompt some clubs to have a look at the 23-year-old once again. It was reported back in January that Aston Villa have identified Brooks as one of their main targets, and while no transfer occurred, Villa might want to go back for the Welshman. It was believed back in January that only a significant bid would make Bournemouth sale one of their biggest assets, and a successful showing at Euro 2020 might only increase that price.