Wales have work cut out if they are to relive Euros dream


ales‘s last experience of a European Championship five years ago was as close to a fairytale as you can get.

It was a dream summer for Chris Coleman‘s side who, roared on by an army of travelling fans, made it to the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Portugal.

Former defender Ashley Williams, who played throughout the tournament and scored in the quarter-final win over Belgium, still looks back fondly on Euro 2016.

“All throughout the Euros, it was like being away with your mates,” says Williams, who will be working with the BBC as a pundit during the Euros.

“It was like a summer camp, literally. We enjoyed the downtime as much as we did [time] on the pitch, and I think that showed with what everyone saw and the togetherness of us when the games came.

“Obviously, we had the fans as well, and they travelled in so many numbers. That was like an extra player for us at times. We had a tight squad. We knew every time there was a camp who’d be there. We had kind of grown up together — and that just transferred onto the pitch.”

It is a very different scenario this summer for Wales, who are based in Baku, Azerbaijan, for their opening two group games, before travelling to Rome.

The pandemic means that rather than thousands of fans cheering them on, just a few hundred are expected to be there when they take on Switzerland tomorrow. First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Football Association of Wales (FAW) have called on supporters not to go to the matches.

Interim manager Robert Page said: “I am so disappointed they can’t be a part of it and get out there and support us like in 2016, when I was a supporter. I remember being on holiday with the family, being a supporter going out and watching every game and the pride I felt watching them do that. I want the supporters to feel that and be a part of it.”

As well as the heat and isolation of Baku, Wales have to contend with the absence of manager Ryan Giggs.

The former Manchester United star was charged with assaulting two women in April and the FAW placed Page, Giggs’s assistant, in charge for the Euros.

As well as that, doubts have been raised about the form of their star players. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale go into the tournament after having difficult seasons at club level.

They are two of the few left from that memorable summer of 2016, although the squad is the third youngest at the tournament. “There’s absolutely no fear with youngsters,” he said. “It’s about the right characters as well — and all our players have got that.”

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