Euro 2020: How Wales have defied off-field uncertainty to make flying start

The Dragons have four points from their opening two games.
Euro 2020: How Wales have defied off-field uncertainty to make flying start

By Phil Blanche, PA

Wales are on the brink of reaching the last 16 of Euro 2020 after beating Turkey 2-0 in Baku on Wednesday.

Robert Page’s side have four points from two games ahead of meeting Group A leaders Italy in Rome on Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency examines how Wales have achieved against the backdrop of a difficult pre-tournament build-up when manager Ryan Giggs was put on leave.

So what exactly happened before the Euros?

Wales v Hungary – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales players celebrate after beating Hungary to qualify for Euro 2020 (Nick Potts/PA)

Well, it was all going swimmingly when Wales reached Euro 2020 in November 2019. They qualified by finishing second behind group winners Croatia and Giggs had developed an exciting, young squad with Euro 2016 survivors Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen providing experience and inspiration. But Euro 2020 was delayed 12 months by the Covid-19 pandemic and Giggs, who had been appointed Wales manager in January 2018, was arrested in November 2020.

What is the situation with Ryan Giggs?

Ryan Giggs court case
Wales manager Ryan Giggs faces a January trial date (Peter Byrne/PA)

The former Manchester United star faces charges of assaulting two women and controlling or coercive behaviour. It is alleged Giggs, 47, assaulted former girlfriend Kate Greville and caused her actual bodily harm at his home in Manchester. Giggs is also charged with the common assault by beating of Ms Greville’s younger sister, Emma, in the same alleged incident. The Wales boss is also alleged to have engaged in controlling and coercive behaviour towards Kate Greville between December 2017 and November 2020. Giggs denies the charges and is due to stand trial in January 2022.

How has it affected Wales?

Wales v Albania – International Friendly – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales have kept on winning under interim manager Robert Page (Nick Potts/PA)

Giggs was put on leave after his arrest on November 1st and assistant coach Page, a former Wales captain, took charge. Page has kept in close contact with Giggs since, saying he speaks regularly to his former Wales team-mate. Page took charge of eight games before Euro 2020, winning four of them. The only defeats came against the world’s top two ranked teams – Belgium and France. Page is an understated character, but he was a tough defender who captained the teams he played for. He has the respect of a dressing room in which the senior players are hugely influential.

How have they been successful?

Azerbaijan Turkey Wales Euro 2020 Soccer
Aaron Ramsey (left) and captain Gareth Bale (right) remain key to Wales’ success (Tolga Bozoglu/AP)

The plan has not changed since the baton was passed from Giggs to Page. Despite a lack of regular Premier League performers and a handful of Championship players, Wales are an organised unit who have lost only once in their last 14 competitive games. Bale and Ramsey provide the stardust and were simply too good for Turkey. Wales have other attacking weapons in the pace of Daniel James and the aerial ability of 6ft 5ins Kieffer Moore, making them a threat to any Euro 2020 opponent.

What does the future hold?

Who knows? The Football Association of Wales have put the whole Giggs situation on the backburner amid their manager’s ongoing legal case. The FAW did not want any distractions before the Euros. But will it — or can it — address their managerial situation after the tournament with vital World Cup qualifying games resuming in September? It would be no surprise if Page remained at the helm.

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