We have heard some inaccurate predictions, outlandish claims, and laughable analysis in the course of the ongoing 2016 European Championships. One such prediction was brutal but alas accurate: Belgium will not be Champions.
But beyond these predictions, the classic quarter final tie between Wales and Belgium confirmed some claims that we’d thought were outlandish, and threw up others that will be debated long after the competition is done.
Gareth Bale is correct, NO English player will get into the Welsh team. None. A national football team is a collection of players – of different skill levels – who play with the same level of passion, despite their skill level differentials, that may or may not deliver the results they desire, but whose commitment cannot be questioned. This is what the Welsh lads bring to the party: they’ve played with a passion that none of the lads who turned out for the English side displayed. You will notice Gareth Bale as their best player, but you will not know that Hal Robson Kanu’s league level is far from that of the Real Madrid Galactico!
Belgium never morphed into a team, and they paid dearly for it. The score line against theMagyars flattered the Red Devils: the Hungarians would have taken them out if they’d converted half of the scoring chances they created before they were silenced by a flurry of late goals. The Welsh were more disciplined, and took their chances when it came. Gloriously.
Injuries have always been a bummer in football, and your internationals must all be at the same level. All great teams either have two players with comparable skills; commentators call them “like for like”, at the same position, or they have two or three players that can comfortably play multiple positions. This means that when injuries occur, the team does not suffer. Belgium lost Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen to suspension and injury, their replacements were far from the original quality: the first two Welsh goals may have been dealt with better, had both been on the pitch.
Every team needs a leader. Just ask yourself: would Belgium have lost against Wales if Vincent Kompany had been on the pitch? Maybe, but not likely. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, arguably the most influential players on the pitch for Belgium, were not leaders on the day. Hazard faded as the game wore on, was De Bruyne even in the team?