by Reece Chambers
Ryan Giggs’ Wales got their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to the perfect start after a 1-0 win over Slovakia last week.
After an international friendly against Trinidad and Tobago a few days prior to the game at the Cardiff City Stadium, this was the first real test for Giggs who will inevitably be compared to the Euro 2016 success of his predecessor, Chris Coleman.
However, if Giggs’ Wales are going to replicate the successes of Coleman’s era, it will be through an entirely different style of football. For Welsh fans, Giggs’ integration of youth and expansive brand of football is in stark contrast to that of Coleman’s pragmatic and combative reign.
Under the reign of Giggs, Wales have began to integrate the experience of Bale, Ramsey, Allen et al. with the fresh-faced vibrance of Brooks, Smith, Ampadu and others. Such integration will be crucial to long-term success of Welsh football as the stalwarts of Welsh football pave the way for a new crop of exciting talent.
The integration of youth was epitomised versus Slovakia given that seven of the starting 11 had less than 10 caps respectively. That very trust of the inexperienced crop of Welsh talent has probably been the biggest strength of Giggs’ reign as Wales boss. With great trust, comes the expectation that those players will deliver and Brooks, Smith, etc. have certainly showed they are capable of playing at the highest level
The accolades for Sunday’s game, though, must be attributed to Daniel James who scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Slovakia in his competitive debut for Wales.
The Swansea winger had recently impressed for the Swans in a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League and showed impressive attributes again on Sunday. James’ pace and direct running has proved to be his biggest asset in his recent rise and the goal on Sunday epitomised those qualities.
After an impressive display for the Welsh national team, it would not be surprising to see Premier League clubs enquiring about the possibility of signing the 21-year-old on a deal in the summer.
Amongst his team mates on Sunday, there were several examples of players who had recently made the transition from Championship to Premier League.
Most notably, Bournemouth’s David Brooks, who has had a ground-breaking debut season in English football’s top flight. In the absence of playmaker Aaron Ramsey, Brooks took control of proceedings and looked like an experienced international player.
The ability to find gaps of space between midfield and defence is one of Brooks’ most impressive attributes for such a young player, and he showed that yet again versus Slovakia. Indeed, it is worth bearing in mind that Brooks has lots of room for development in front of him but he certainly appears to embody the future of Welsh football under Giggs’ regime. I would go as far to say that it is worth building a team around Brooks for years to come, when Bale and Ramsey have retired.
For Giggs and his coaching staff, the 1-0 win versus Slovakia should be taken as a sign that this young crop of Welsh talent has the ability to grind out wins against awkward European opponents.
The future certainly looks bright for Welsh football and that forecast will be further improved after a strong and defiant showing against one of their main rivals for Euro 2020 qualification.