If Sir David Attenborough was a football analyst we would certainly describe last night Hungary’s goal against Wales as, some sort of, ‘feline failure’. We all know, based on brilliantly described documentaries, that all big cats have a very low success rate when they go for the kill. Well this, in football, can’t happen as much, as the conceded goals can kill a team much more faster than a lioness who doesn’t score on the first try. You see, when you are a defender, and when you go for the kill each time (trusting on your ability to recover the ball and do your job) you could be indulging in a big mistake. And that happened to Ben Davies in Budapest.
As all away games are nowadays, the match against Hungary was a tough one for Giggs’ Red Lions. Nevertheless, the Welsh were in much better position to win it than at Croatia, three days ago. Playing at home, Hungary was not a dominant side, and it did not played what we can call a good football. They relied on a direct approach that, for most of the time, the Welshmen could control. With this being said, you can certainly know that Wales had a lot of time to attack, to retain possession, and make all that compiled in a goal, or two, that could give more hope for a Euro’20 qualifier. But that – we now know – didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen partially because of the offensive lethargy, and lack of better ideas than putting James running on the wing, as well of a mistake commonly taken by a large population of football defenders around the world.
With the nil-nil, Wales could keep some hopes of a win in Hungary, but when you concede, away, the home team will always get a boost. And the 80′ minute strike by the Hungarians kept the Welsh without any possibilities of maintaining the game in the right direction for them. With a direct ball to the box, Marco Rossi’s men found what they’re looking for (without, for the most of the time, doing something to get it). With a direct ball to the box, we repeat, Wales defenders entered in a dilemma. Szalai, the striker, could keep the ball and win the duel with Lawrence. And that left Ben Davies in a serious two way approach. He had to help his team mate, but, in doing so, he would leave Pátkai alone. So what’s the right approach in this kind of situation?
We already said that Davies has to go near the ball. He has to do it, because he, in that situation, has to try and do one of two things: cover the space that the striker has to score, or go for the kill and win the ball for Wales. Lawrence failure gives him no other chance. But Ben Davies goes for the kill… and loses the ball as well. And we all know what come out of that story: Pátkai score, Hungary got the goal, broke free, and started to play at a level that Wales couldn’t cope with. And it’s difficult not to link that with the way that Wales conceded the goal.
Fortunately, this is not something that can’t be corrected. I mean, Ben Davies isn’t, for sure, the only one choosing this kind of approach and Wales’ loss should not be directed at him – for there were many questionable approaches (specially offensive ones) that kept Wales from winning. But I brought this subject so that we can remember how difficult is to be on that field and, in a matter of seconds, choosing what is right to do. Yes, Ben Davies did go for the kill and he missed that. Now it’s easy to point that he should only covered the space and the goal, but sometimes you will have to go to win the ball, otherwise you will be just watching the other team playing with it. So, what’s the right approach? And, specially, what’s the right approach when your team is so close to concede? Could we have chosen better than Davies on that moment?