WALES may have been defeated in the weekend’s friendly against Holland but manager Chris Coleman was encouraged by his team’s performance without key players Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale.
“We scored two goals without Bale and Ramsey, which is a big thing when you look at who was getting the goals for us in the qualification campaign,” he said after the match, underlining just how important the pair are to the team’s fortunes.
The Arjen-Robben inspired 3-2 win in the Friday night friendly was the first time Wales had lost at home since their World Cup qualifier against Serbia in September 2013.
Despite the confidence of the home team going into the match Wales could not deliver without the duo who together scored nine out of 11 goals during qualification for Euro 2016. Bale alone contributed seven goals and two assists during the campaign.
In Wales’s opening qualifier, he scored a brace as his last-minute free kick secured a win away to Andorra, sparing Wales’s embarrassment after they trailed the side ranked 205th in the Fifa world rankings.
Further examples of Bale’s heroics included scoring the winner in a 1-0 win at home to group favourites Belgium and clearing the ball off the line in the corresponding fixture in Brussels to secure a point for his side in a hard-earned 0-0 draw.
Before the match Tottenham Hotspur left back Ben Davies said: “We’ve lost two very good players but we’re confident that everybody in this squad is here for a reason and we don’t have any players that are here to make up the numbers.
“If they get the opportunity to play they’ll do the best they can on that field. It is definitely a chance to show we’re not a one-man team and that we can cope come the finals if Gareth and Aaron are not there.”
The calf injury to Bale and Ramsey’s pulled hamstring gave Coleman a chance to experiment with a new-look starting line- up. He made five changes from the team that won October’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Andorra, giving Leicester forward Tom Lawrence a first start and Crystal Palace midfield starlet Johnny Williams another turn on the park.
In a lively game Bas Dost gave the visitors the lead before Joe Ledley equalised, scoring the rebound after Joe Allen’s penalty was saved by Jasper Cillessen. An excellent individual effort from Arjen Robben restored Holland’s lead before Emyr Huws headed in from Allen’s cross to draw Wales level for the second time in the match. However, Robben struck again with 10 minutes remaining.
Despite scoring twice, Wales’s biggest threat came from set pieces. In open play, without their attacking stars, Wales lacked creativity in midfield and a cutting-edge in the final third. Also, they only managed 41% possession against a Dutch side who themselves failed to qualify for Euro 2016.
Bale and Ramsey have between them won eight major honours at club level.
Wales are a determined side, united by a strong team spirit and motivated by pride in representing their country.
But that determination can only get them so far. If the unthinkable happens and Bale and Ramsey are ruled out of Euro 2016, it is unlikely that it would be able to compensate for such a huge loss of quality.