Gareth Bale played the full 90 in Wales’ 2 - 0 loss to Denmark on Sunday evening.
As was the case in Wales’ previous game against Ireland, Bale was slotted into the starting XI by head coach Ryan Giggs as the team’s spearhead in attack — the player highest up the pitch without much defensive duties. In theory this makes sense in a team that doesn’t have another big offensive weapon. You can leave the heavy-lifting defensively to players like Roberts, Ramsey, and Lawrence while Ampadu and Allen provide support and Bale conserves his energy to blitz defenders on the counter. This leaves Bale to play on the shoulder of the defensive line to latch onto dangerous vertical passes, as he did here in the first half:
But opportunities like this for Wales were few and far between, unlike the match prior. The main reason: Denmark are a much better defensive side than Ireland were. Ironically, Denmark were probably the inferior team for a large stretch of the first half. They gave the ball away plenty (Pione Sisto a huge culprit here, as he looked leg-heavy in losing the ball six times and misplacing five routine passes in the first half alone), and gave a lot of space to Ampadu, allowing him to show for the ball and dictate things from deep. But they also weren’t a complete black hole defensively like Ireland were, and Christian Eriksen carried the team brilliantly. He was the main creator in the first half (four key passes at half-time) when Sisto was asleep, and popped up for a brilliant goal:
Wales will rue that defensive sequence. They had plenty of bodies back to cover and completely disregarded picking up Eriksen at the top of the box, much to the disappointment of Joe Allen screaming for someone to track Eriksen as he was running back. Eriksen also scored the second goal — a (harsh) penalty stemming from an Ampadu hand-ball in the second half.
Denmark subdued Bale about as well as you possible can. He didn’t have many chances to run into space, and Wales as a whole had trouble distributing the ball efficiently or getting Bale in good positions. A lot of Bale’s touches were on the flank, where he’d cross it in, only to see Kjaer clear with relative comfort.
Bale also had to drop deep a lot after fully realizing he wasn’t going to get many touches otherwise, and as a result, spent a lot of time in deeper positions trying to orchestrate counter-attacks and act as a ball-carrier.
It will be interesting to see what adjustments Giggs makes moving forward against stronger opposition. As a reminder, Wales play Spain in October, which should be interesting, at the very least.