World Cup 2022: Wales’ next journey starts with a new identity – Ashley Williams


Wales heads home from this World Cup and it is time to reflect on what lessons have been learned for future campaigns, and what could have been done differently in Qatar.

We have to set our eyes on the next big final – the 2024 European Championships – and decide which direction we will take to get there.

Now that is the goal and I am 100% certain that Rob Page is the man to take us to Germany.

He has taken us to this World Cup, and he knows the team and the work we need to do to qualify, some of which have shown in this tournament.

Wales needs to find an identity

The first thing we need to do is establish a clear identity like my Wales team did when they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016. We were a bit spoiled and very difficult to beat.

With our strongest side, we probably had nine seasoned professionals who had seen it all and were not overwhelmed by anything, be it the top teams or the hostile environment.

We will keep a clean sheet and we always knew we had one of the best players in the world to rely on Gareth Bale to help us get something going at the other end.

Now it’s a different scenario for Page, as Vine is aging.

In Qatar, it seemed that we were looking at a new approach but were hoping that the old one would still work for us.

That’s fine, but now is the time to look to the future. Paige needed to move away from what had worked in the past and figure out what was going to be the new thing for Wells.

So, is he going to try to kill people, fight them…or a little of both?

The good news is that we have a little time to breathe before the next qualifying campaign for the Euros, which starts in March.

We’ve got Croatia, Armenia, Turkey, and Latvia in our group, and the top two qualify automatically, with the other places available through the Nations League playoffs.

It is definitely possible to overcome this and we will be thinking that we can go to Germany, but at the same time Paige has to decide what kind of team he wants us to be and turn us into that team.

Bale can bend at will

It looks likely that Bale will be part of that Euro 2024 campaign after saying he will play for Wales for as long as he can, and as long as he wants to.

This is great news for us. We haven’t seen Bale in this tournament since Euro 2016, but he still provided a great moment when he stepped up to score our penalty against the United States.

I’m glad he has a World Cup goal to add to his legacy for Wales, which was huge anyway.

I was a pundit of the England game alongside another Welsh legend, Ian Rush, but I wanted to point out that he is the greatest Welsh player of all time – and I’ll repeat it here.

With the game on the way, we chat with Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, and Rio Ferdinand about whether Bale is the greatest British player of all time. Everyone had different opinions about who he really was, but the fact of Bale was in conversation shows the scale of his achievements.

He has always given his all for Wales and it hasn’t been easy for him. I have seen him play despite injuries and it never stopped him from being in the team, wherever we were playing.

If he decided that he was now retiring, no one could complain about his commitment or his contribution to the national interest.

He took these boys to the World Cup, so whenever he wants to bow out, it’s fine with me. He mentions that the Euros are just around the corner so we may see them again. I hope so.

a new nucleus toward wales

Hopefully, we can plan to include Bell and Aaron Ramsey, and Joe Allen as well, but the center of the team will have to come from elsewhere for the Euros and of course beyond.

The positive thing is that we have got some good young players and they all have a lot of caps already.

I’m talking about Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson, Dan James, Joe Roden, and Brennan Johnson, most of whom have 40-odd caps as well as at least one major finals experience.

I think it’s time for them to look at where Page wants to take us and grow this team now, whether or not Gaz, Aaron, and Joe are there.

I was really impressed with Ampadu’s performance in Qatar, he is going to be a very important player for us in the next few years.

It’s tough on him because his versatility has been very useful to us, but being able to play in so many positions means he hasn’t got anyone caught.

This could change if Page decides on a systematic formation while implementing its plan.

Lately, we have been flip-flopping a lot between the back three and four, and that hasn’t helped players coming into the team.

If the team always plays a set size and a certain way, it becomes more obvious to know what to do.

That needs to change in this next qualifying campaign. Creating consecutive tournaments after Euro 2016


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