The build-up to a major international tournament is a key facet to any side’s chances of success in said competition.
It’s a time for coaches to experiment and test out the qualities of new personnel, meaning that when the big occasion arrives they’re settled on their preferred system and have a decent idea of which players form their strongest starting XI.
Wales boss Rob Page has tended to play with a back three in recent months, with the pace and attacking endeavour of players like Neco Williams and Connor Roberts helping to drag their team up the pitch.
The Dragons’ recent success has been built on their solid backline – keeping ten clean sheets in their 13 outings prior to Euro 2020 – though their rigid setup means they can often find themselves penned in as they struggle to get up the pitch to offer an attacking threat.
The aforementioned wing-backs are therefore key to Page’s side’s style of play and his decision to revert to a back four against Switzerland hugely backfired.
Predicting Wales’ starting XI for their opening game of Euro 2020 against Switzerland.
A preview of Wales ahead of Euro 2020. Including key players, strengths, weaknesses and expectations.
A preview of Switzerland ahead of Euro 2020. Including key players, strengths, weaknesses and expectations.
Daniel James can use good performances for Wales at Euro 2020, like in their opener vs Switzerland, to prove himself to Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Swiss dominated the ball and although the Welsh backline stood strong for large parts of the game it was evident that the breakthrough was going to come.
Wales found themselves dropping deeper and deeper into their own half with only Dan James really providing an outlet to help relieve the pressure, as Kieffer Moore struggled to hold up the ball due to being completely outnumbered by Swiss defenders.
Having Williams and Roberts further up the field may have left Page’s side a little more isolated at the back but it would have at least given them an out ball and would have alleviated some of the pressure.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side’s main weakness looked to be in the wide areas with James causing the Swiss backline all sorts of problems in the channels when given the chance to drive forward, and you couldn’t help but feel the support of the flying Williams – who has played at left wing-back on a few occasions for his country – could have helped cause even more problems.
The decision to play with a back three was made even more infuriating by the presence of Moore up front.
The Cardiff man was having a field day whenever the ball was played into the box, forcing a fine save from Yann Sommer in the opening stages before firing a superb header into the bottom corner with just 15 minutes to go as he cancelled out Breel Embolo’s early second-half strike.
More play in the wide areas would have undoubtedly led to the big frontman getting more frequent service and subsequently improved Wales’ chance of winning the game.
Some may argue Wales’ game plan worked to perfection (apart from not winning, obviously) as they soaked up pressure and eventually hit back to earn themselves a credible point.
However, given the pace and quality in the Welsh squad it really felt like they sold themselves short against a Switzerland outfit that were there for the taking.
We’re not advocating going toe-to-toe with sides like Italy because, well, they’ll get absolutely battered. However, Page will surely have looked at his side’s opening clash of Euro 2020 as a great opportunity to grab three points and take giant leap towards the last 16.
Instead, they did very little to ever suggest they could secure the win and were left counting on the brilliance of Danny Ward and the intervention of VAR to ensure they took home a point.
It’s going to take more than draws for Wales to get out of Group A and at some point Page is going to have to release his wing-backs.