Posts Tagged ‘Gareth Bale’

Feature: Bale’s Wales charm Dinard as they push for Euro glory

The sleepy Brittany resort town, which has a population of around 10,000, has played host to Chris Coleman’s squad for a month and the mutual affection between players and locals has been clear to see. The players have been taking walks on the beach, playing football with local youngsters and posing for selfies, while Dinard’s shopkeepers and bar owners have festooned the town with Wales flags and window displays. “The Welsh players are very approachable and close to their fans,” says Didier Dré, who runs a shop selling toys, postcards and beach furniture just around the corner from Dinard’s Plage de l’Écluse. “We’ve seen very famous players like Gareth Bale taking selfies with supporters. They’re a very relaxed, very cool team. I think that’s their strength.”

A piece on how the picturesque town of Dinard has fallen under the spell of Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates during Euro 2016. You can read it here.

Feature: Bale sets tone for happy-go-lucky Wales

Underpinning the camaraderie is a formidable team spirit that reflects the fact many of Coleman’s players have been representing Wales for years. Bale, Gunter, Taylor and Aaron Ramsey were playing for the Wales Under-17 team as far back as 2006. The core of the current side came together during the latter years of former manager John Toshack’s tenure between 2004 and 2010. It has helped to foster the familiarity of a club side, both on the pitch — where Coleman has been honing the team’s tactical systems for two years — and off.

Dancing, table tennis and ice creams on the beach – here’s my piece on how Wales laughed their way to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

Feature: Bale, Hamšik draw swords for Euro 2016 duel

Distinctive haircut? Check. Multiple national player of the year awards? Check. Feared attacker with a vicious shot and the freedom to roam all over the pitch? Check, check, check. Gareth Bale and Marek Hamšik would be able to reflect upon the many things they have in common were they not lining up against each other for Wales and Slovakia in tomorrow’s Euro 2016 opener in Bordeaux. The two players — topknot-sporting Bale, 26, and mohican-crested Hamsik, 28 — inspired their respective countries to qualify for a European Championship finals for the first time and the outcome of the match may boil down to which of the two players comes out on top.

A piece on Gareth Bale and Marek Hamšik, who face off in Bordeaux on Saturday. Read it here.

Related link: Wales fans’ journey reaches Euro 2016 destination

Analysis: Wales, Northern Ireland emerge from England’s shadow

Lafferty was branded an ‘out-of-control womaniser’ by Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini after leaving the Sicilian club in 2014, but, carefully handled by O’Neill, the 28-year-old has become a talisman for his country, replicating the exploits of David Healy in previous qualifying campaigns. The Northern Irish squad is a blend of wizened old pros and up-and-coming talent, the experience of stalwarts such as defenders Chris Baird (33) and Gareth McAuley (35) supplemented by the verve of players such as young Manchester United defender Paddy McNair (20) and 24-year-old midfielder Oliver Norwood. O’Neill’s man-management has also been a key factor, helping the former Newcastle United midfielder rouse his players to climb from 88th to 35th in the FIFA rankings. “There was a period when Michael went a number of games without a win, but he stuck with it and never gave up,” said Nigel Worthington, one of O’Neill’s predecessors.

I’ve written something on the stories behind and Wales and Northern Ireland’s successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns. You can read it here.

Preview: Promised Land awaits for Wales in Israel clash

Hughes’s exit was the catalyst for a slump that saw Wales plunge in the world ranking to a low of 117, only for a youthful side to reverse the trend under the clear-sighted management of popular former midfielder Gary Speed. Speed’s death in an apparent suicide in November 2011 left Welsh football in a state of shock and his former team-mate Coleman was not a universally popular choice to replace him. The gum-chewing, perma-tanned Coleman did little to endear himself to Welsh fans by losing his passport prior to a World Cup qualifier in Macedonia two years ago — forcing him to miss the pre-match training session — but he has since engineered a stunning surge that has seen Wales rise to ninth in the FIFA ranking, above England for the first time. Victory over Israel will lift Wales to the implausible heights of fourth in the world, and they could climb as high as second.

Here’s a piece on the night of catharsis awaiting Wales against Israel on Sunday.

Review: Ferguson exit sparks England’s year of change

“The year had started in familiar fashion, with United romping to an unprecedented 20th league title, but at 09:17 on the morning of Wednesday, May 8, everything changed. A tweet published by the United press office confirmed the jaw-dropping rumours that had first emerged on the Daily Telegraph website the previous night: Ferguson, the father of the modern United, the most successful manager in British football history, was stepping down after 26 and a half record-breaking years.”

My AFP review of the year 2013 in English football can be found here.

Report: Bogeyman Bale cuts Inter down to size again

“LONDON — Gareth Bale resumed his torment of Internazionale by scoring one goal and creating another as Tottenham Hotspur won 3-0 at White Hart Lane on Thursday to place one foot in the Europa League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report on Tottenham’s superb victory over Internazionale can be read here.

Tactics: Coleman, Stam lead full-backs’ forward charge

Defensively adept wide forwards such as Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt and Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung have evolved out of the need for attacking players to prevent opposition sides playing the ball out from the back when their teams’ own attacking moves have broken down. The pressing exerted by Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi in Barcelona’s 2008-09 quintuple success was seen as one of the key factors behind the team’s ability to keep their opponents penned inside their own half, while a robust and hard-working wide forward is a particularly useful weapon against marauding full-backs of the Maicon or Dani Alves variety.

Players like Kuyt are occasionally maligned for keeping more skillful, supposedly more talented players out of the side, but the Dutchman’s effectiveness has gradually received recognition and there now appears to be a begrudging consensus that players of his ilk do make teams more solid defensively.

However, while Kuyt has been harrying full-backs on the Liverpool right for the last three years or so, a relatively new development this season has seen full-backs moved into the kind of position where you would expect to find a conventional winger. Gareth Bale’s stellar performances for Tottenham have understandably received plenty of attention, but Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Ronnie Stam of Wigan Athletic are also full-backs who have found themselves re-deployed further up the flank.

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Tactics: What is Gareth Bale’s best position?

Claims that Gareth Bale’s two scintillating performances against Internazionale have turned him into the best player in the world may be a little far-fetched, but it is no exaggeration to say that in Tuesday night’s match at White Hart Lane, almost everything he did with the ball at his feet was magnificent. Speculation is already rife about which European giant he will elect to join if and when the time comes to leave Spurs, but an important decision also needs to be made about where on the pitch he should play.

Damien Comolli, the man who oversaw Bale’s move from Southampton, says he thought he’d found “the new Maldini”, and Bale and his manager, Harry Redknapp, are in agreement that his best position will ultimately prove to be at full-back.

“In the long run, I still think Gareth Bale will develop into a fantastic left-back – hopefully the best in the Premier League,” Redknapp told the September issue of FourFourTwo magazine. “We wouldn’t lose any of Gareth’s attacking flair if we moved him to full-back… He’s good enough and energetic enough to get back and forward all day long. When you play as a left-back, it is difficult for the opposition to mark you.”

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Goal of the Week: Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale (Internazionale 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur)

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