As per my tendency to jump ship in favour of current World Champions, Germany, at every Euro competition or World Cup, many an English football follower might trawl through their ancestry to find any glimmer of Welsh roots next year. Last night, Wales were beaten 2-0 by Bosnia-Herzegovina in a Euro 2016 qualifier, but that loss was bittersweet for a mere moment; despite the defeat, Gareth Bale and his team-mates were entitled to celebrate anyway — thanks to Cyprus’ win against Israel — with qualification for the tournament granted.
There were endless videos and images portraying knee-slides of elation and, similarly, beaming expressions, and one can’t imagine how excited the Welsh population must be. For the first time since 1958, Wales have secured themselves access to the heights of a major tournament. So, last night’s fixture might have been without a victory against Bosnia, but paper results didn’t seal their fate, and their eventual qualification might have been otherwise circumstantial, but absolutely no mean feat at all.
Given that Wales will automatically find themselves in the underdog’s zone next year, one can expect that they will want to really press and win as many games as they can muster. It isn’t as though that should be too tricky a challenge, though; Wales have at least two aces up their sleeve: Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. But it is at this stage that I deem it rather suitable to consider how one of these men, Real Madrid superstar and Southampton-nurtured rising talent, Gareth Bale, will be likely to make a major impact during Euro 2016.
Gareth Bale: Welshman with a Vision
Gareth Bale is not a regular team-hopper; beginning his senior career at Southampton, he prospered, which afforded him an element of limelight, and was procured by Tottenham Hotspur in 2007. Spurs fans will look back at Bale’s time spent at White Hart Lane with tarnished feelings, for the Welshman is the sort of enviable signing all teams gaze at considerably.
Gareth Bale might be the hotshot Spurs, for their sake, should never have relinquished, but there is no quibbling that his quality has been better off on Spanish soil. The dizzying trials of La Liga are so well suited to players with drive, and Real Madrid are, arguably, the team to join within the division.
Although his career has been a whirlwind of wowing statistics and expertly executed goals, his haircuts (I just feel I have to mention) have been persistently questionable, though outside the usual mould of what counts as a traditional ‘footballer’s hairdo’. Sure, I have tutted, but Bale seems to go from strength-to-strength with a newly-quaffed chop.
Correlation, perhaps; digression, yes.
Following Wales’ qualification, Gareth Bale was the man to contact for some thoughts about the momentous occasion. Bale, a self-confessed patriot, claimed that earning their spot in the competition “[ranked] on a par with everything else, if not top” (The Guardian, October 2015). This was not a snub in the direction of the Champions League, per se, but rather an approximation of the satisfaction that stems from playing internationally.
Chris Coleman, the Welsh national boss, must have been thrilled, too, and he will likely recognise Bale’s huge injection of calibre into his side. Scoring six of Wales’ nine goals during the qualification period, and assisting two of the others, Gareth Bale will be a force to be reckoned with next year. I can’t think of one English player that holds equal weight to Bale’s name on the list of Lions for that same reason.
Certainly, a tally of goals speaks volumes, but it’s that extra peppering of ambition and ferocity that revitalises a team and brings them the sort of confidence that generates points. Bale possesses this desire to succeed, not only because he is a very patriotic man, but because his talent has been moulded and polished at Real Madrid. Bale will, therefore, also be accustomed to winning matches and dominating the pitch; this will, thus, God – and team – willing, translate into some stunning results come Euro 2016.
Despite a current calf injury, Bale still seems enthusiastic and animated, and Wales’ qualification will undoubtedly help his tenacity. The 26-year-old boasts an artillery of speed, creativity and accuracy; these are three attributes which, when combined, can be deadly. 30 league goals are knotted to Bale’s name, which is rather impressive in such a mighty team, especially with extraordinarily accomplished players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodríguez, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos alongside him. With all bustling for a foot on the ball, it’s a real test of teamwork, modesty and patience in such a squad, so Bale does very well to succeed.
As we witness game-upon-game with England, you can be the hero of the league, but wooden and flawed when it comes to the international main stage. Gareth Bale will be aware of this, but must combat any related issues when Euro 2016 commences.
So, it’s his ability to strike home and sprinkle some flair onto a game that makes him Wales’ main weapon to fire next year. Furthermore, Bale’s knowledge of what it takes to be triumphant is also well-informed, and, despite the present joy among the Welsh squad, Bale understands that: “there is still a lot of work to do”.
Indeed, Coleman’s men will have to be a truly commanding group in 2016, and be prepared to utilise their best weapon, along with Aaron Ramsey and Swansea’s Neil Taylor, in order to grab some good results.