28 June 2021

What next for Wales after Euro 2020 exit?

28 June 2021

Wales must now focus on World Cup qualifying after being knocked out of Euro 2020 at the round-of-16 stage.

The futures of manager Ryan Giggs and captain Gareth Bale remain big talking points ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign resuming in September.

Here, the PA news agency examines some of the major issues facing Welsh football.

What is the situation with Ryan Giggs?

Ryan Giggs court case (PA Wire)

The former Manchester United star faces charges of assaulting two women and controlling or coercive behaviour. It is alleged Giggs, 47, assaulted former girlfriend Kate Greville and caused her actual bodily harm at his home in Manchester. Giggs is also charged with the common assault by beating of Ms Greville’s younger sister, Emma, in the same alleged incident. The Wales boss is also alleged to have engaged in controlling and coercive behaviour towards Kate Greville between December 2017 and November 2020. Giggs denies the charges and is due to stand trial in January 2022.

What can we expect with the manager’s role?

Netherlands Wales Denmark Euro 2020 Soccer (AP)

Giggs has been on leave since November with Robert Page in interim charge. Page has proved a safe pair of hands in difficult circumstances and guided Wales into the knockout stage at Euro 2020. The former Wales captain said after defeat to Denmark that he will “just continue doing what I’m doing until I’m told otherwise”. With Giggs’ legal case pending, it would be a major surprise if Page was not in charge for the rest of the World Cup qualifiers. Football Association of Wales president Kieran O’Connor said during Euro 2020 that Page had been “superb” and his continued role in the job should be rubber-stamped in the coming weeks.

What does the future hold for Gareth Bale?

Italy Wales Euro 2020 Soccer (AP)

Only the Real Madrid forward knows for now. Bale said before Euro 2020 that he knows his future but claimed it would “cause chaos” if he revealed it. Bale turns 32 on July 16 and there was speculation before the Euros that he may be contemplating retirement. The Wales captain seemed tired by constant questions over his future when he walked out on a TV interview moments after Wales’ tournament exit on Saturday. But Bale subsequently gave another interview promising never to quit Wales as long as he is playing football. With the 2022 World Cup finals only 17 months away – and with one year left on his Real contract – it would be a big call to walk away from football right now.

Could we see players retiring?

Wales v Mexico – International Friendly – Cardiff City Stadium (PA Wire)

The close proximity of World Cup qualifying means it is unlikely. Wales will complete their qualifying campaign by mid-November. Wales had the third youngest squad at Euro 2020 and only five players aged 30 or over. Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was the most senior member of the squad at 34. Hennessey is set to leave Crystal Palace and needs to sort out his club future but will want to claim the four more caps needed to take him to 100. Euro 2016 heroes Chris Gunter and Joe Allen have already expressed their World Cup ambitions, while Bale and Aaron Ramsey are the two others to have turned 30.

World Cup challenge

Wales have Belgium and the Czech Republic – two teams who have reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 – for company in World Cup qualifying. Belgium, the world’s top-ranked team, are the favourites to win the group and take the automatic place for Qatar 2022 on offer. Wales lost their opening qualifier in Belgium but bounced back to beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in Cardiff. Qualifying resumes with a September double-header away to Belarus and at home to Estonia. Second place would secure a play-off spot. But Wales are almost certainly guaranteed that anyway, with their Nations League record likely to provide a route into the World Cup play-offs.

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