Wales are having a unique Euro 2020 experience. Unlike england and Scotland, Wales have had a long journey to get to their base in Azerbaijan for the opening part of the tournament.
A seven-hour flight, three-hour time difference and scorching temperatures actually make it feel more like a traditional tournament. It’s different, exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure.
Ahead of Wales’ first match in Group A, manager Rob Page does have a few headaches and dilemmas to solve.
First up, what formation does he attempt to take the Swiss on with? For some time now Wales have switched formation from a back three with two wing-backs to the more traditional back four with relative ease. On the eve of the Euros, Page won’t be worrying whether his players can adapt. They can. It’s just whether that is the best formation to be able to beat the Swiss.
By playing with a back three, it allows wing-backs such as Conor roberts and Neco Williams to really cause headaches for the opposition as they get high up the pitch. Both have very good ‘engines’ so they’re used to running up and down during a game. Williams, in particular, is rapid.
The three centre-back system works for Wales, it’s just who will Page pick? I’ve a feeling he could go Joe Rodon, Ben Davies and bring Ethan Ampadu into that back three, meaning Chris Mepham might be the unlucky one to miss out. Good chance I’m wrong, it’s just a feeling that you always get something different before a tournament.
A back three has a knock-on effect for the shape higher up the field.
Does the false nine role come to the fore here? That would suggest Kieffer Moore, the tall Cardiff City striker would not start. Instead a forward three of Gareth Bale, Dan James and Aaron Ramsey.
Ramsey, we’re told, is fit and if he is, you can’t leave him out! However, if Page were to start with a back four, then things change. Obviously, the defence in terms of personnel would change a little, but a back four might make it more of a possibility that Moore would start.
Moore is a handful, but what he does best is makes space for other players by tying up defenders. He also links well by holding the ball up remarkably well. This can be so beneficial for players like Bale, Ramsey and James to be able to be on the front foot attacking their opponent.
So, for Page, his formation to a high degree dictates his player selection.
My gut feeling is Page will start the game with a back three, two wing-backs and a false nine role, but if the Swiss are proving to be stubborn to break down what Wales can do with ease is switch formation to a back four.
We are told all 26 Wales players are fit – although Ramsey gave us a little scare when he sat out training on Thursday. He fronted up though and explained that due to the injuries he has carried over the last 18 months or so, he is a player that just needs special attention during training.
Some days it is just best for him to keep his feet up and have a light session when his medical team recommend.
For Wales at these Euros, the expectation is raised a little in the sense it is no longer a ‘first’ Euros. Wales appear neither deluded nor pessimistic. They expect to progress from Group A to the knockout stages, but are under no illusion that journey could be a tough one.
What will help Wales though is the belief an opening-game victory over Switzerland would give them. If they achieve that, a range of emotions from confidence to relief would cascade through the squad. It also provides momentum.
Wales know a win over Switzerland would put them in a strong position, with games against Turkey and Italy to come. Their chins will be held high and their football will flow.
Sky Sports Football Euros Podcast: Gary Neville on England’s chances, why France are favourites, and how Euro 2020 can lift the nation
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville (5:07) joins Peter Smith on the Sky Sports Football Euros Podcast to build up to the big Euro 2020 kick-off. Neville has his say on england’s strengths and weaknesses, what they’ll need to do to beat favourites France to the title, and how this talented young group of england players can raise the spirits of the entire nation.
During the podcast, we also get the lowdown on how Scotland and Wales (22:54) are shaping up from the Sky Sports News reporters following their campaigns, Charles Paterson and Geraint Hughes. Plus Valentina Fass from Sky Italy and Uli Kohler from Sky Germany (56:39) give us the view from the continent on how their own nations are looking.
Sky Sports deputy football editor Kate Burlaga and football writer Ben Grounds will also be sharing their top tips for the tournament, including who will be lifting the trophy on July 11 – and which players will light up the tournament (1:09:35).