Wales boss Ryan Giggs reflects on state of mind of Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale

Press Association Sport 10:54 11/06/2019
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Ryan Giggs says Gareth Bale has shaken off his end-of-season rust and is ready to finish the campaign on a high with Wales.

Giggs’ side meet Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday, with precious Euro 2020 qualifying points at stake.

Wales hope to claw back the three-point deficit on Group E leaders Hungary and are looking to captain Bale to end his goal drought at the Groupama Arena.

The Real Madrid star has gone three months without a goal for club and country, and has suffered huge frustration in Spain after losing his first-team place towards the end of the season.

“I was happy with Gareth’s performance in Croatia,” Giggs said of the 2-1 defeat in Osijek on Saturday which dropped Wales to third place in the group.

“He had a couple of chances and on another day they go in.

“It was his first game in six weeks, we had a great build-up in Portugal and a great week at Colliers Park (their training facility in Wrexham).

“Gareth grew into the game, not playing for six weeks that might be understandable. Hopefully’s he’s saving it for Hungary.”

Some 3,000 seats will be unfilled at the venue after UEFA ordered a partial stadium closure following the behaviour of Hungary supporters in Slovakia in March.

Hungary fans were found guilty of racist behaviour, vandalism and the setting off of fireworks. The Hungarian Football Federation must display a banner with the wording ‘EqualGame’ on it in the closed sector.

“There will be less fans in the stadium but I understand it’s a very good atmosphere,” Giggs said when asked about the threat of racism from Hungary fans.

“I’ve talked before about sanctions on racism not being strong enough. They need to be stronger.

“But for me it’s all about concentrating on the game. I’ve got enough to worry about with winning this game.”

Wales are set to carry a potent attacking threat with David Brooks, who scored a consolation goal after coming on as a second-half substitute, expected to prove his fitness after an ankle problem.

Brooks should form a front-three with Bale and Daniel James, Swansea’s Manchester United-bound winger who drew high praise from Hungary manager Marco Rossi at the Italian’s pre-match press conference.

Rossi admits he has been astonished by the speed of James, comparing him to former sprint champion Usain Bolt and ex-Brazil striker Ronaldo.

“In the past I played against a very fast player who, according to me, was the best after Maradona – Ronaldo,” said Rossi, the former Brescia and Sampdoria defender.

“His acceleration looked like James. He was just not known for speed but for everything. James’ speed reminds of Usain Bolt – to be so fast like him is really incredible.

“In the last years I don’t remember one player that gave me this sensation.”

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Watch Real Madrid star James Rodriguez discuss Copa America with Colombia

David Cooper - Writer 18:08 10/06/2019
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Mateus Uribe seems to be catching on quickly to the ideas of Colombia’s new head coach Carlos Quiroz after he scored twice in his country’s 2-0 win over Peru in a friendly in Lima ahead of the Copa America which starts on June 14.

Unwanted Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez also joined the centre forward in speaking to the media.

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Zinedine Zidane's managerial skill to be truly tested by Real Madrid's summer shopping spree

Andy West 17:23 09/06/2019
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Zinedine Zidane

In November 2015, Real Madrid suffered one of their most humiliating defeats for several years as Barcelona – lacking the injured Lionel Messi – waltzed into the Bernabeu and cruised to a 4-0 victory.

Predictably, that game proved to be the point of no return for Real boss Rafa Benitez, who was sacked amid scenes of sad inevitability six weeks later.

His replacement was club legend Zinedine Zidane, who immediately effected a remarkable turnaround which saw the steadied ship surge to a strong finale to the campaign, concluding with the European crown thanks to a penalty shoot-out victory over local rivals Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Final.

How did Zidane do it? What kind of sweeping changes must the Frenchman have instigated to transform the team from their Clasico capitulation into continental kings in such a short space of time?

Well, in truth, hardly any. Ten of the eleven players who started in that defeat to Barcelona continued to start under Zidane, whose only real innovation was the introduction of Casemiro in place of James Rodriguez to add more muscle into the midfield.

Other than that, Zidane maintained more or less the same tactical approach and the same personnel that had been employed by his predecessors Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti, with his main impact limited to the realm of psychology: using his charisma and authority to bring together a collection of vast egos and keep them fighting towards a common goal.

The same group of players also marched to a convincing league and European double the following season, with Zidane doing a wonderful job to keep all his stars aligned but, again, making few tactical interventions other than the implementation of a midfield diamond with Isco at the tip and Gareth Bale relegated to substitute status.

Rafael Benitez during the defeat to Barcelona in 2015

Rafael Benitez during the defeat to Barcelona in 2015

Throughout that first managerial spell at the Bernabeu, Zidane oversaw a process of gradual evolution, taking the outstanding resources at his disposal and molding them into a Europe-conquering collective by instilling an atmosphere of mutual respect and giving them the freedom to play.

This time, however, the nature of his task is completely different.

Rather than tweaking and nudging, Zidane is facing the challenge of commanding a full-scale revolution. Cristiano Ronaldo is gone, Bale will probably follow, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo are fading forces and several more – including 2017’s star man Isco and once-golden boy Marco Asensio – face uncertain futures.

Replacing them, the welcome mat is being hastily rolled out for a new wave of Galacticos, whose role in the team must now be defined by Zidane.

First and foremost among those, of course, is Eden Hazard, and the arrival of the gifted Belgian has already set pulses racing among Real fans who are dreaming that this could be the year for their team’s great revival.

Indeed, the prospect of Hazard unleashing upon La Liga his thrilling dribbling skills and his ability to create and take chances is a tantalising one, and it’s easy to envisage him enjoying a fruitful partnership with the unselfish and silky link-up play provided by Karim Benzema.

If Hazard and Benzema are the new front two, though, where does that leave another costly summer import, Luka Jovic?

Maybe Zidane is planning to use the Serbian frontman alongside Benzema, with Hazard roaming free in front of a solid midfield trio of Casemiro, Modric and Toni Kroos. But what then for the squad’s wingers, such as Isco, Asensio and rising star Vinicius Junior?

Or, if Zidane plumps for a 4-4-2 formation with a pair of those wingers included, what does that mean for Jovic and the midfield trio? Not to mention this summer’s other signings Eder Militao and Rodrygo, and any others who may yet follow (Paul Pogba? Kylian Mbappe?).

In truth, even Zidane probably doesn’t yet know exactly how he will employ all the weapons at his disposal. The coach can only properly start to plan after the summer transfer window has been closed and all the ins and outs have been completed.

The question of how a batch of highly talented new imports can be assimilated alongside an equally gifted group of current stars is a problem that any coach would love to have, but this is the busiest Bernabeu summer for a decade, and Zidane’s managerial abilities will be tested to the full as he attempts to assemble all the pieces of his jigsaw.

If he gets it right, the results could be truly spectacular.

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