By Jamie Thomas.
Wales are in pole position to qualify for Euro 2016 after their emphatic victory over Israel. The current crop could prove they are the golden generation if they create history by reaching their first major tournament since 1958.
Embed from Getty Images
Three goals, nearly 20 shots on target and a clean sheet – it’s the kind of dominance some might not expect from Chris Coleman’s men. But Wales were tactically disciplined while pressing as a unit, displayed both patience and pace, and were utterly committed to the cause. The 3-0 win, which saw them leapfrog Group B rivals Israel, showed these attributes are now ‘the Welsh way’ – and it is a joy to watch.
The Wales team has a great core group of players: nine of the XI that started in the 3-4-3 line-up on Saturday would most likely start every time they play that system. Only James Collins and Hal Robson-Kanu would change for James Chester and Sam Vokes if the squad was fully fit.
You would maybe think that such consistency in the line-up would result in players becoming lethargic and resting on their laurels. But that isn’t the case at all. Wales were rarely put on the back foot by Israel, but when they were, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale could be found back in their own half trying to win the ball back.
Success is now being achieved across the board; the Under-16s won the Victory Shield for the first time in decades last year and, although they fell at the group stages, the Under-17s performed well at the European Championships in Russia. With an impressive production line of players coming through, such as George Williams, Harry Wilson, Jordan Williams and Tyler Roberts, there could be a lot to shout about for years to come as far as Welsh football is concerned.
All of this has been attained on a very low budget compared with the likes of England, who are believed to have around 10 times the funds that Wales have at their disposal. Yet the FA still copy their initiatives, such as with the England DNA programme, which is a take on Wales’ player pathway.
Coleman’s men play the more attractive football by far, too – and it gets results. Wales’ offensive exuberance has been curbed in recent years because, while they can play some very pretty stuff, they previously left themselves exposed at the back as a result. This isn’t the case anymore; particularly in this campaign as they’ve only conceded two goals in five games. If they can maintain a consistent defensive unit, Wales might feel able to take it up to another level again on the offensive front.
Goal heroes Bale and Ramsey stole the headlines, but the whole team deserves to be heaped with praise for their performance against Israel. However, it is Coleman, technical director and coach Osian Roberts, former national boss Gary Speed and others in the recent management set-ups, who should take the credit as Wales are now one of the most aspirational and enjoyable national sides to watch in Europe.
Read more from Jamie Thomas here.