Euro 2016’s surprise package Wales head into this summer without their manager, Ryan Giggs, and several key members of that side from five years ago.
Assistant manager Rob Page will take over and will be assisted by Albert Stuivenberg, as Giggs remains on arrest after being charged with assault in April. This is not what Wales needed in the run-up to the tournament. They have a tough group including powerhouse Italy, Switzerland, who pulled off some shock results in the Nations League, and Turkey, who many are speaking of as potential dark horses. They also face the long trip to Baku for their opening two games before facing Italy in Rome.
Group A: WALES, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey
Manager: Rob Page
Odds (PP): 150/1
Recent Tournaments: Euro 2016 (semi-finals)
FIFA World Ranking: 17th
Gareth Bale. Wales’ best player by far, they will need him to continue his fine end of season form if they are to have any hope this summer. He looked to be finished this time last year, welded to Real Madrid’s bench but a loan back to Tottenham seems to have temporarily revived his career. After a slow start to the season, he finished strong with 11 goals in just 20 league appearances, including a brace against Leicester on the last day of the season.
Goalkeepers Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward and Adam Davies were all selected despite none of them being first choice at club level. First choice Hennessey, who also started in 2016, has made the sole Carabao Cup appearance this season for Crystal Palace while Ward has featured just four times for Leicester.
The defence is young. Ethan Ampadu, Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham, Ben Cabango and Neco Williams, all 23 or under, have replaced the 2016 old guard of Ashley Williams, James Collins, Neil Taylor, and James Chester. Only Chris Gunter remains from the defence that started the semi-final against Portugal. Also included is Spurs’ Ben Davies, who will bring experience to Wales young defence.
In midfield Joe Allen is included, although there will be question marks over his fitness having not played since March. Key midfielder Aaron Ramsey is another with limited minutes this season after falling out of favour at Juventus, but is certain to start. Ampadu could also feature in midfield as well as centre back. Bournemouth’s David Brooks and Liverpool’s Harry Wilson, who spent the season on loan at Cardiff, were also selected. Cardiff duo Rubin Colwill and Jonathan Williams also made the cut, as did Luton Town’s Joe Morrall.
Gareth Bale, Dan James, Cardiff target man Kiefer Moore and Leeds Tyler Roberts were all named in attack.
One to Watch
Ethan Ampadu. Despite being relegated with Sheffield, the 20-year-old remains a key cog in Wales team, in defence or midfield. His ability on the ball will be key for Wales ball progression and he does not shy away from a challenge either. With Chelsea reportedly in the market for a centre back Ampadu will be eager to impress, and a tournament could see Chelsea take the cheaper option and bring him back to Stamford Bridge.
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Leicester), Adam Davies (Stoke City).
Defenders: James Lawrence (St Pauli), Ben Davies (Tottenham), Joe Rodon (Tottenham), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Chris Gunter (Charlton), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield Utd.), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Ben Cabango (Swansea), Connor Roberts (Swansea).
Midfielders: Joe Allen (Stoke City), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Joe Morrell (Luton Town), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Jonathan Williams (Cardiff City), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Harry Wilson (Liverpool).
Forwards: Harry Wilson (Liverpool), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff).