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After 58 long years without playing in a major tournament.

Wales marked their return to the big stage in scintillating style by staging an inspirational 2-1 win over Slovakia in Bordeaux.

Why Aaron Ramsey is such an integral component of Chris Coleman's WalesIn the build-up to the colossal clash, Arsenal midfielder, Aaron Ramsey, gave an interesting take on the rare situation the Welsh team currently find themselves in. “Yes, normally I’m on holiday now,” he explained to the Telegraph.

“When the [Euro] campaign started and we got those couple of wins early on I kept winding the Arsenal boys up saying ‘I’ll see you in France’. To finally achieve it was great. To go in to work knowing I would actually be playing in the finals: fantastic.” He then went onto add: “I want to make an impression on the field. That is my main target to help Wales get out of the group stages and then see where we go from there.”

And Ramsey certainly made an impression, in a game where he put in an exemplary performance that puts his side in a fantastic position to achieve their set goal of getting out of the group.

With Chris Coleman opting for what was ostensibly a 3-5-2 formation, the role afforded to Ramsey was an absolutely fascinating one. Given vast tactical freedom and attacking responsibility, this saw the 25-year-old play mostly as a left sided central midfielder, but also operate as a right sided central midfielder, enjoy brief stints on both flanks and occasionally play in a central attacking post.

As a consequence of his liberty and intelligent positional variations, depending on whether Ramsey formed part of the attacking line or midfield line, Wales’ shape constantly morphed between the aforementioned 3-5-3 and a 3-4-3. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey presented Slovakia with a multitude of problems as to how best to deal with him, for his relentless work rate and incessant movement never allowed the Falcons to settle into a pattern of how to successfully nullify him.

Moreover, his strong relationships with his teammates all over the pitch, especially with Gareth Bale and Joe Allen, ensured both he, and his colleagues, were always on the same page. For example, in situations when Bale would drop deep, Ramsey would immediately notice this and burst forward to briefly play as a centre forward. From here, he’d look to unsettle the Slovak back line by making runs in behind and exploiting space in between the lines. His aptitude at finding space was perfectly illustrated when he masterfully found space in front of the opposition back line, which served as the catalyst for him to supply the game winning assist for Hal Robson-Kanu’s 81st minute strike. It was indeed fitting that Ramsey supplied the match winning assist, for no one in the Welsh squad during qualification for the summer showpiece created more goals coring opportunities than his 23.

Up against Slovakia’s well regimented defensive setup, Ramsey’s ability to unlock and orchestrate openings for his team, courtesy of his extensive catalogue of flicks, back heels and one touch passes, plus his dynamism on the dribble, combined to see him amplify his offensive influence on the contest.

Another way in which he gave the Dragons some additional impetus going forward, while also limiting Slovakia’s effectiveness, came by way of willingness to drift out to the flanks. By doing so, he would confirm Wales created an overload on the flanks to ensure they would cause 3 v 2 scenarios in their favour. The best illustration of this clever tactic arose when Ramsey would push over to the left to make certain Wales would gain the numerical superiority. Seeing as Slovakia’s left winger and left back, Robert Mak and Peter Pekarik, were already occupied by Neil Taylor and Ben Davies respectively, Ramsey’s presence meant Wales could comfortably retain possession and breakdown Slovakia down this side. In addition, by forcing the dangerous Mak to always track back, his potentially dangerous counter-attacking threat was largely neutralised.

Ramsey’s typically unwavering hustle and bustle on the defensive end also saw him apply an outstanding five tackles and have a huge impact on stifling Jan Kozak’s troops attacking forays.

All things considered, there could be no doubting his intensity, movement, attacking prowess and tactical acuity served as a crucial factor in Wales’ historic victory. Receiving a standing ovation from the 25,000 strong Wales fans, upon being substituted on 87 minutes, showed their overwhelming appreciation of his tremendous effort.

With another solid showing against England under his belt, you can guarantee the tireless Ramsey will be doing all he can to help his team get over the line vs Russia and achieve their objective of progressing out of the group.

Ramsey even spoke of how his legendary manager at club level, Arsene Wenger, believes the Welsh possess the quality to cause a real stir at the Euros, saying: “He said we could be pretty dangerous in France so hopefully that proves to be right. He’s a wise man.”

Although it’s taken 58 years for Wales to finally be at a major tournament again, with the likes of Bale and Ramsey steering the Welsh ship, there’s every chance the Dragons could go deep into Championships and give their loyal supporters plenty more to cheer about.

After witnessing Leicester City’s remarkable English Premier League triumph, the Welsh squad will surely be inspired to believe that anything is indeed possible. And with such a tight knit squad like the Foxes have, no matter how unlikely it seems, Wales will be desperately hoping they too can produce a similarly magical fairy tale.

Only time will tell if they, in fact, can, but there’s no doubting stranger things have happened.

Originally published at licencetoroam.net

Post written by Edward Stratmann
for Licence to Roam, Blog: licencetoroam.net, Twitter: @licencetoroam

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