The spirits were high in the Wales camp after the Dragons’ match day two against Turkey, where a fantastic team performance gave them a 2-0 victory and placed them on four points in Group A in Euro 2020.
Since then, the lack of control and scoring opportunities in a 1-0 defeat against Italy dampened the mood somewhat – although not much at all, given that they still made it to the knockout stages.
Wales team spirit has been visible throughout the tournament / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images
But their round 16 loss 4-0 against Denmark was heartbreaking from Wales’ fan perspective. Apart from the heartbreaking line of points, the match highlighted the lack of tactical disruption and experience.
Things started brightly, with Gareth Bale, Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey all disturbing Kasper Hjulmand’s back line. Ramsey’s move pulled players out of position and created openings for others, while Bale wandered around unleashing effort that made Kasper Schmeichel crawl. James’ movement was also worrying and took the midfielders out of the equation with usually electric runs over the 18-yard box.
But things changed with a subtle move by Hjulmand. Denmark’s manager took Andreas Christensen out of the defense and moved him into midfield and changed the formation from 5-2-3 to 4-3-3. By shuffling the defense in a back four, Christensen then sat in front and screened his colleagues – and he did it to perfection.
Andreas Christensen was crucial for Denmark’s victory against Wales / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images
Ramsey was immediately annulled by the Chelsea man’s presence and therefore stifled Wales’ creativity, while the long ball to Kieffer Moore was closed due to Christensen’s freedom between midfield and defense, allowing him to stay close to the Welsh frontman from goal kick. and other sets.
It was a tactical move that closed Wales completely.
And after Kasper Dolberg’s brilliant opener in 27 minutes, it was a tactical move that required an answer; and fast.
The strike that separates the sides at the break.
Can Wales come back?
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But, as the final score suggests, Rob Page’s answer never came. The former Port Vale and Northampton boss showed that he was simply not tactically skilled enough at this level, did not change form or approach during the interval, and therefore did not predictably solve Wales’ tactical framework.
The Dragons continued to fail to break through the midfield lines, with Christensen remaining virtually impenetrable as a holding midfielder.
Denmark soon got its second, when Dolberg capitalized on Neco Williams’ terrible mistake of securing a brace clinically. A 2-0, and seemingly impatient, lead made it possible for Hjulmand to reject his side again. The Danes eventually returned to a back five with a midfield three, giving them two solid lines of defense to the Welsh press and enough bodies to stifle their opposition in midfield.
The introduction of creative players like Harry Wilson (who actually saw red late) and David Brooks was a little too late. An already stiff and brilliantly organized Danish side, under the command of the heroic Simon Kjær, stuck to rather moderate and unimaginative attacks – tactically speaking, they were simply not bright and sharp enough to challenge Hjulmand and his players.
Harry Wilson received a red card after coming in / Koen van Weel – Pool / Getty Images
In fact, Denmark remained on the more threatening side and broke out of the defense in a blowing style to secure two more goals – Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite added a couple of late strikes to seal a 4-0 victory.
It is important to note how good the Danes’ performance was – especially given the circumstances surrounding the camp and Christian Eriksen – but let us realize that it was easy for their opposition.
Firstly, Side’s lack of response to Denmark’s change during the first half of the year and secondly the introduction of creative sparks only after the Danes had once again changed form to look like the win were factors that gave Dragons little chance of ever overcoming a fast-thinking and fast-acting Hjulmand.
Team spirit can take you far, but in the end, the lack of effective, brutal, groundbreaking tactical skill has cost Wales another fairytale European journey.