It had been 58 years since Wales last graced a major international tournament and with that in mind, for many Welsh fans, the main prize has already been won. Simplistic though it may sound, Wales hopes of success at Euro 2016 rest almost entirely at the feet of Gareth Bale, yet home nations’ pundits and fans alike seem almost ashamed of Wales’ title as a ‘one-man team’.
Amidst all the pre-tournament build-up, Wales boss Chris Coleman understandably refuted the claim that Wales are a one-man team – as any manager would in the interest of building team morale – but why is everyone else echoing this sentiment?
Gareth Bale isn’t just essential to Wales’ win condition, he is Wales’ win condition. There can simply be no disputing Bale’s influence and contribution. In 10 qualifying matches, Wales managed just 11 goals, notably the second lowest tally of any team in Group B (only Andorra scored fewer). What brings that statistic into sharper focus is that the former Tottenham man scored seven goals of Wales’ overall total, netting in five of his country’s six victories.
Whichever way you look at it, if Wales want to win a game, they look to Gareth Bale to provide the cutting edge. Nearly every notable offensive move comes through Bale, almost by definition, this fact qualifies Wales for the title of a one-man team… and where’s the harm in that? People need to stop looking upon it as a shameful title, Welsh fans should be proud to boast one of the world’s best players.
Seeking a counter-argument, we spoke to former Wales international and renowned football pundit Robbie Savage at William Hill’s Euro 2016 preview evening. Savage is a particularly passionate advocate of Wales’ collective strength, though it seemed even he had difficult explaining how they are not a one man team:
Robbie Savage: “They’re only a one-man team, in terms of creating and scoring goals”
CLICKON Soccer: “Is that not exactly what constitutes a one-man team?”
Robbie Savage: “But in terms of defensively, they kept Belgium out twice and individually you’d say Belgium are as good if not better than England. So if they defend like they can – which is collectively – combined with a midfield of Andy King, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey, that’s not a bad team.”
Why are we refusing to acknowledge Gareth Bale’s invaluable role in the Welsh side? Without him Wales formulate an average international side, with him they have the chance to cause a serious upset.
Gareth Bale is to Wales what Ronaldo is to Portugal, or Neymar is to Brazil, yet in the example of the Balon d’Or nominees, no-one tries to hide their importance – rather, they are placed on a deserved podium.
Portugal fans, for example, fully appreciate that if they are to stand any chance in the semi-finals of Euro 2016, it will be because Ronaldo has performed and carried the national side forwards – every other country looks at Portugal and thinks the same.
Why, when we consider Wales’ chances, are we trying to delude ourselves that the situation is different to that of Portugal’s?
The Welsh national side has been blessed with the quality of Gareth Bale, he takes the team to a level they would be in no position to reach without him. As much as it may disagree with the Welsh ideals of unity and collective strength, Wales should embrace their title as a ‘one-man team’. No rival will be willing to admit that their entire team was dissembled by the force of an individual Welsh forward.