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Football Reporting

EURO 2020

Gareth Bale was shouting into the wind against Demark – Wales were powerless to stop them – Andy Dunn


He stood remonstrating with Daniel Siebert but Gareth Bale was shouting into the wind.

All around, Danish players were celebrating Kasper Dolberg’s second goal and Neco Williams was desolate after a mistake of Sunday League proportions.

Bale was asking the German referee how on earth he did not give a foul – for what looked like a clear infringement against Kieffer Moore – ahead of the strike that doubled Denmark’s lead.

He had a point but he could also have been raging about the rancid defending that allowed Dolberg to beat Danny Ward from close range.

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Not just Williams’ horrid clearance but the way Martin Braithwaite was allowed to surge clear of a leaden-footed back line.

Gareth Bale wasn't at the races against Denmark
Gareth Bale wasn’t at the races against Denmark

It was a goal that spelled out this unfortunate Welsh display and not even Bale at his imperious best could have saved them.

As it happened, he was nowhere near his imperious best and Wales were nowhere near the sort of form that could have resisted Danish momentum.

To all intents and purposes, this was a home game for Denmark, backed by the overwhelming majority of fans inside the stadium and adopted by millions across the continent after what happened to Christian Eriksen.

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But with emotions stripped away, these were two very evenly matched teams.

Only Wales, of course, had the stardust.

It is hard to think of too many countries who have a talisman of the stature of Bale.

He has become a statesman for his nation.

Ahead of this game, he presented Danish captain Simon Kjaer with a framed Wales shirt emblazoned with ‘Eriksen 10’ and the words ‘Brysia wella’. Get well soon.

He is a fantastic footballing ambassador. And still, contrary to some suggestions, a fantastic footballer.

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And when he caught sight of a gap between Kasper Schmeichel and an upright early doors, his eyes lit up.

He probably finds that gap fifty percent of the time but the way he struck his effort was symptomatic of his evening. Just a touch off.

Are Denmark potential shock winners of Euro 2020? Comment below

For ten minutes, he saw a fair bit of the ball and caused a few problems but he was on the periphery for too many long spells.

But that was hardly surprising when you consider how ragged and disjointed Wales were.

There is no sugar-coating this – limitations normally catch up with a squad in tournament football and Wales were fairly abject.

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Moore’s contribution was typical of the overall performance. If he was not giving the ball away, he was giving free-kicks away.

There was an irony in him actually being sinned against moments before the Danes broke for that second goal.

And perhaps this was a managerial step too far for Robert Page.

He was presented with a whole host of problems in the first half, not least the injury to Connor Roberts.

And he found few solutions.

Kasper Hjulmand, the Danish coach, rejigged his formation when Bale found early space and joy and it worked a treat.

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Tactically, the Danes were excellent.

And it was also clear they are being buoyed by a wave of emotion. They were sharper, quicker to the ball, snappier in the tackle.

Not that the Welsh players did not give it their all, not that Bale did not give it his all, as he does every time he pulls on the national team jersey.

But this was a day when that shortage of in-depth quality was painfully apparent.

Bale had a headed attempt and he pushed and probed but his efforts eventually lacked conviction.

He got to the by-line late on – prior to Joakim Maehle and Braithwaite adding insult to injury – but his cross failed to find one of three potential recipients. It was the story of his and Wales’ match.

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Bale will now rest up, play a bit of golf no doubt, and then tell us where he is going to play his club football next season.

And despite this emphatic defeat, he should have no regrets about Euro 2020.

He has again led Wales with distinction and you cannot ask for much more than that.

This, though, was just a step too far and he could do little but shout into the wind.





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