Wales 2-1 Slovakia: A tactical analysis of how the Dragons did it

How did Chris Coleman mastermind Wales' first European Championship victory?

Wales 2-1 Slovakia: A tactical analysis of how the Dragons did it
Gareth Bale celebrates Wales' first European Championship goal. (Photo: Getty Images)

Wales against Slovakia was always going to be a battle of the tacticians, as Chris Coleman and Jan Kozak came head to head with varying tricks up their sleeves in their quest to bring a winning start to their respective nations on their European Championship debuts.

It was in fact the younger and less experienced Coleman who came out on top and this is how he did it for Wales.

Disciplined in defence and adventurous on attack

Formerly a defender, it was no surprise that Coleman's side were defensively disciplined. Three at the back, supported by two defensive midfielders, was always going to be difficult to break down and it certainly proved the case as Michael Duris was virtually non-existent, whilst superstar Marek Hamsik gradually drifted out of the game after a promising start.

Ben Davies was given a bit of freedom to push out of defence when Wales had the ball, though central midfielder Dave Edwards was always on hand to drop into the back three when Davies became more adventurous. Supported by two of the hardest working wing-backs you will find in Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor, Slovakia struggled to find any sort of way past the Welsh defence. 

Coleman had asked his team to "tackle tough and hard" and that is what they did, which riled the Slovakian opposition. When Wales won the ball, they were tough to handle further forward. Gareth Bale had the predicted free role but in a less advanced position which allowed him to pick up the ball and dictate play from a deeper role. Aaron Ramsey played in the number ten position, whilst the tireless Jonny Williams was always on hand to pressurise a nervy Slovakian defence. The three of them were almost Barcelona like in the way they continually changed positions and were hard to pick up.

One of very few Slovakian strikes on goal (photo : Getty Images)
One of very few Slovakian strikes on goal. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kozak's response is thwarted by Coleman once more

Kozak had no choice but to change the tactical set up of his Slovakia team at the break and the adjustment of Vladimir Weiss playing more central made an instant impact. The former Rangers man linked well with a more advanced Robert Mak who created an equaliser for his side.

Rarely in the first half did we see any Slovakian midfielders make a run behind lone striker Duris, yet they began to do this as pressure built on Wales. The home nation were struggling to clear the ball and make it stick up front despite the constant work rate of Williams. Coleman responded by bringing on Hal Robson-Kanu, who made a crucial difference to the Wales team.

His work rate, strength and endeavour allowed Wales to get out of their half and push further up field at a time where the game looked as if it could slip away from them. The free agent Robson-Kanu eventually got rewarded with his efforts, as he scored the winning goal to take Wales to a maiden European Championship victory.