The Welsh generation of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are the wonders of the big tournaments. It’s not just about the emotions they gave us at Euro 2016. Check out our website for more fascinating stories like this.
The team had a special aura, which was reflected in the legendary banner “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”. The phrase is folk art, but Bale and the whole team solidified this message. In an era dominated by club football (in terms of finances, ideas, and quality of play), Wales was a place where the national team was openly placed above the clubs. They were not afraid to declare this, including actions on the field.
Getting into this special atmosphere, the players were transformed. At the speed of light, they got in shape (even if they experienced problems at the club), did not get injured (or played without noticing injuries), and gave all the best in such a way that I even almost believed in the “burning eyes” phenomenon. Not only Bale – Ramsey, Joe Allen, Ben Davis, and sometimes Wayne Hennessy. They infected the others with this virus of true love for the national team.
Yes, yes, we periodically hear words about the importance of national teams from almost any player, but without the readiness to openly put it above the club and without such a purely football effect.
In terms of playing principles, Wales has also been an understandable (and in their own way pleasant) team all this time: reliability off the ball in a 3-5-2 formation, a straight line attack (hello to the great Hal Robson-Kahn), the freedom of Bale, who was diligently fed the whole team, closing 2-3 positions in terms of Ramsey’s workload and the dedication of the entire gang at any second of the meeting. At the same time, due to Joe Allen, they could play more subtly in midfield, but only in case of emergency.
There was some inexplicable feeling that these factors are a guarantee of not failing at big tournaments. If Wales did come, then the magic of the Welsh atmosphere will make the team recognizable and worthy. A good example was the performance at Euro 2020 – neither in terms of the level, nor in the current form of the players, nor in terms of coaching experience, Wales had trump cards, but the magic worked.
Alas, in Qatar 2022, instead of a scheduled miracle, faith in a miracle has become too blind. We have seen the transformation of a miracle into a cargo cult of a miracle. That is, the unreasonable belief that if all the formal rituals were observed and the scenery built, the mechanism would suddenly start working (without thinking about what really made it work, except for the magical Welsh spirit).
All the talisman players were in place (no matter what form and what clubs they now play for) along with the 3-5-2 formation and the desire to play through the big striker. We tried to do everything as usual, but instead of the usual football, we got one of the most hopeless performances of the tournament. To finally make sure that everything was over, Wales failed in two modes at once – first trying to park against the United States (yes, they pulled out a draw against the background of a tired opponent, but the game was completely faded – the opposite of classic Wales) and the first number against Iran, which tore on counterattacks and could score the winning one earlier.
If we discard blind faith in rituals and talismans, then everything is logical. The 2016 generation is leaving. Only four of the squad for the match with Belgium in 2016 remained – Hennessy, Davis, Ramsey, and Bale. Aaron – whatever, but definitely not big enough for two positions anymore. Bale turned from a free player into a dependent player (still can solve with a good shot, but before he solved with different tools – dribbling, passing, hitting).
A 6-year cycle with three tournaments and such a recognizable style is power for Wales. It’s over. It’s time to build a new team. Now the Welsh have just as many players from Premier League clubs (albeit without superstars like Gareth in the new generation). There is no point in worshiping 2016 any longer.
We need a fresh idea. The fuel of this team is a special sense of Welsh pride. It is also the reason why you want to sympathize with them when they play at least a little better than now. On this foundation, you can build a new team. Another – is in style and dependence on leaders. Perhaps even more deserving.
Generation 2016 Thank you! Much of your journey has been wonderful and unique in the context of modern football. You have built not only a good team but also a special identity. I want to believe that it will remain after you. The truth is waiting for the opportunity to sink for new Wales.