The summer sun is shining, the birds are singing sweetly and lager is about to rain from the skies in fan zones across Britain, which can mean only one thing: Euro 2020 is underway.
While the tournament kicked off with Italy’s 3-0 win against Turkey yesterday evening, Wales are the first home nation in action this afternoon. They take on Switzerland in the second Group A fixture, before Denmark face Finland and Belgium play Russia in Group B later on.
Wales have already won the battle of the kits, with their home strip among the most aesthetic at the tournament. The yellow shoulder stripes, the hooped sleeves, the perfectly proportioned badge set to an impossibly luxurious red background: if their football is as beautiful as their clobber then they might just get their hands on the trophy.
While, in the future, football may well be won and lost based on the popularity of Adidas’ commercial output, for the moment it is still an actual game played by actual footballers. Wales have some good ones, thankfully, not least their old guard of Gareth Bale, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey.
If those three bring gravitas, finesse and memories of their dreamlike run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Wales also have exciting young players in Neco Williams, David Brooks, Tyler Roberts, Joe Rodon, Dylan Levitt, Dan James and Ethan Ampadu. There is a good mix of youth and experience to their squad, which should serve them well.
In the aftermath of Ryan Giggs’ arrest in November, Rob Page has stepped in as caretaker manager and done a good job so far. He currently has a 50 per cent win ratio with the national team, with only two defeats – against France and Belgium – from eight games.
With Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Denis Zakaria among their star players, Switzerland will make for tough opponents. Getting off to a winning start could be hugely important, with Page telling the press: “Every game is going to be extremely difficult for different reasons, different circumstances.
“We’re going to be up against a very, very attack-minded team in Switzerland that attack with five at times, with both wing-backs if they play that same shape that we’ve planned for.
“[They’re] very attack-minded, the way they defend is man-for-man at times… we’ll show each team the respect that they deserve.”