Russia vs. Wales (Tactical Report)

The irrepressible Gareth Bale toe-poked one past the Russian 'keeper in the second-half to become the tournament's leading scorer with three goals.

Chris Coleman's Wales needed a win to ensure a place in the Round of 16 of EURO 2016. His side delivered exactly that, producing a breathtaking display of attacking football to sweep past a hapless Russia and top Group B.

Super fast Wales

Coleman caused a few stirs by selecting striker Sam Vokes ahead of Hal Robson-Kanu. But the Burnley forward, playing on top of a 3-5-1-1 formation, was the focus point for a rampant attacking display by Wales.

Gareth Bale, in a roaming role behind Vokes, tormented Russia's defence, wreaking havoc as he ran effortlessly past the centre-back pairing of Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski — the oldest in EURO 2016 with a combined age of 70.

Aaron Ramsey's beautiful clipped finish, from a through-ball by Joe Allen, put Wales ahead before Neil Taylor scored his first international goal, as the side seized control with an inspired first-half performance.

The irrepressible Gareth Bale toe-poked one past the Russian 'keeper in the second-half to become the tournament's leading scorer with three goals.

Wales had a mammoth nine shots on target in the first-half, the most by any side in the competition so far (see picture).

Slutsky gets it wrong

Russia has the second oldest squad in EURO 2016 and it was therefore very strange to see coach Leonid Slutsky 's decision to play a high-pressing game against a young, attack-minded Wales. This was perhaps highlighted when Joe Allen, not known for his pace, breezed past the Russian 3-4 players in the first-half, to set up a chance for his team-mate. The strategy allowed too much space for the men from Wales, with the likes of Ramsey revelling in an advanced position in the midfield.

Allen certainly lived upto his tag of being the 'Welsh Xavi' and was a constant menace throughout the match. The wing-backs Taylor and Chris Gunter also had an outstanding day in the field with the former being directly involved in a goal.

The death of 4-2-3-1?

The match was yet another success for a team that had opted to start five players in the midfield. Is it fair to say that the 4-2-3-1 formation, one that was employed in recent years to great effect by Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, Joachim Low's Germany, Jose Mourinho's title winning Chelsea and recently Zinadine Zidane's Real Madrid, is under some sort of threat?

Italy unlocked a Belgium side, albeit a team with big Marouane Fellaini playing in the centre instead of the supremely-talented Kevin De Bruyne, with ease. Last night, a Wales side with five players in the midfield, thanks to the marauding wing-backs, completely outclassed and more importantly 'out-ran' its Russian opposition.

We saw Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid annihilate Bayern Munich in the Champions League playing two strikers (Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann) up-front. Even teams such as Poland and Sweden, who have with them the likes Robert Lewandoski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who are used to the role of a lone-striker for their respective clubs, have opted to play with two forwards instead.

A staggering 1171 crosses have been hit in 28 matches so far, underlying the important roles the wide players have played so far. The good old-fashioned box-to-box midfielders such as Luka Modric, Joe Allen and Emanuele Giaccherini have also had a EURO to remember so far. This is a pleasant change from the modern day midfield, where the players have a fixed role — either defend or attack.

It's too early to judge the future of 4-2-3-1, especially considering how Belgium used it to great effect against Republic of Ireland, but the signs are there and if the likes of Chris Gunter and Antonio Candreva continue to perform this well, we might soon see a paradigm shift in football formations.

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