Wales 0-1 Uruguay: Cavani and co too strong
Ryan Giggs tasted defeat for the first time as Welsh manager, watching his side lose in the China Cup final to a strong Uruguay side that boasted both Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.
In failure one always finds lessons to learn and this game will have been more productive than Wales’ 6-0 thumping of China in the curtain raiser.
Giggs, buoyed on by the attacking triumph of his first game in charge, opted for a back four, rather than a back five. Instead of deploying Declan John has LWB, he thrust him into LAM and moved Ben Davies to his natural LB slot.
Setting up in a 4-2-3-1, abandoning the rigid nature of a 5-3-2, was a refreshing and welcome change - even if it did not work. It suggested Giggs had confidence in his men, trusting them to take the game to Uruguay.
And while the Dragons began with impetus, their attacking intent left them vulnerable at the back. Twice, Luis Suarez hit the post; one from an error from Ashley Williams and the other a product of incisive play from the Uruguayans.
In truth, Uruguay found it a little too easy to get in behind Wales’ back-line with the running of Cavani and Suarez causing havoc. Indeed, this is how the decisive blow was contrived: a ball swung in from the right, after Rodrquez broke into space was calmly finished by Cavani, scoring on his 100th cap for his country.
As this Wales side transitions from one built to keep clean sheets to one designed to attack, there will inevitably be defensive deficiencies to iron out. Time will tell whether Giggs decides to revert back to the 5-3-2 formation or sticks with a more adventurous 4-2-3-1, but regardless of formation, Wales will need rediscover the defensive solidity that constituted the spine of their success under Chris Coleman.
Cause for optimism
Though the Welsh may be slightly disappointed to return home without silverware, there is still cause for optimism. Giggs’ men fought toe-to-toe with an experienced heavyweight and matched them for competitivity.
Any allusions of a game played out at a pedestrian pace were expelled from the off, with both sides playing with purpose and urgency. That Wales equalled their opponents for large portions of the match should be lauded, especially given the relative disparaity in quality.
That they refused to cower and submit to apparently superior opposition marks a subtle change from previous managements. While in possession, too, they played with confidence and sought penetrating exchanges. The rejoinder to this, though, would be the slightly desperate fashion in which they approached the final moments of the game.
Sir Alex Ferguson always said that a minute was a long time, and urged his side to be patient and composed in possession. Giggs will have kept this sentiment and will surely remind his side of this. Long and aimless balls defined the final minutes - this is, perhaps, to be hypercritical - and had little chance of causing any problem. Wales would have been better suited playing the football they had played all game.