Five for the Future

In the summer of 2016 the Welsh national team returned home to a heroes' welcome following their magnificent exploits at the European Championship. Optimism abounded in the wake of a string of superb performances that carried them all the way to the semi-finals, their best ever finish at a major tournament. But fast forward two years and that has turned to dejection as Wales failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Chris Coleman has gone, replaced by Ryan Giggs, and the painful rebuilding process begins now, with a view to reaching the 2022 showpiece. Here are five players that can lead Wales there:

Ben Davies
The Spurs left-back has gone from strength to strength this year and put in some eye-catching performances in recent games against Man Utd, Arsenal and Juventus. He already plays with a level of maturity well beyond his years and has made the left-back slot his own. England's Danny Rose will have a ferocious battle on his hands if he hopes to win back a starting berth, as Davies has been strong in the tackle, tactically astute and supremely comfortable on the ball all season. At the age of 24, he already has 36 international caps and will continue to be one of the first names on the team sheet for many years to come.

Regan Poole
The Man Utd youngster is yet to earn a Wales cap, but he has starred for the under-21 team and has already represented the Red Devils in the Europa League. He is getting career advice from the likes of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard on how to break into the starting 11, and he seems destined for a glorious career. By the next World Cup Ashley Williams will be 38 and James Chester will be 33, so Poole will be required to step up and take a centre-back berth.


Ethan Ampadu resize

Ethan Ampadu  (pictured above)

The versatile Chelsea starlet has already made two appearances for the national team, despite his tender age. He was 16 when first called up to the squad and made his debut against France just after his 17th birthday. He excelled during both Wales appearances, and he also became Chelsea's youngest debutant in more than a decade when he came on against Huddersfield. Antonio Conte knows he has got an excellent player on his hands, and Giggs will benefit tremendously from Ampadu in the heart of the side, either at centre-back alongside Poole or in a holding midfield role. He recently earned praise from none other than Owen Hargreaves: "For a 17-year-old, every time he's played, he's played with such composure. He looks almost like an experienced player. He's an exceptional young player. He's going to be a real star for the future."

David Brooks
Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley will still be in the mix in four years' time but they will have to vie for a place with Brooks, who is starring for Sheff Utd this season. He scored the winner against Leeds Utd just six minutes after coming off the bench for his debut, earned the man of the match award in a 4-2 Sheffield derby win and banged in a screamer against Millwall. He has already played twice for Wales and scored the second in a 3-0 win over Switzerland. Make sure to check sportsbetting.ag review for odds on the World Cup and you will see that Switzerland are given a decent chance of winning it, so that performance is hugely encouraging.

Ben Woodburn
It is likely that Gareth Bale will move into the centre-forward position, Cristiano Ronaldo style, by 2022, allowing teenage sensation Woodburn to take the left-wing role. He has big shoes to fill, following on from Giggs and Bale, but Woodburn could be every bit as good as his predecessors. He is Liverpool's third youngest debutant and their youngest ever goal scorer, while he has also been lighting up the UEFA Youth League, where he captains the Reds for manager Steven Gerrard. He rebuffed England in a real coup for Wales, and has already made six appearances and scored his first goal, hopefully the first of many.

© Copyright 2013 Welsh Football