Ben Davies has defended Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey for their performances at the World Cup – despite two poor team performances which have left Wales facing elimination if they don’t beat England on Tuesday.
Wales were fortunate to draw their opener against the United States after a late penalty from Bale masked a below-par first half display, while they lost their second match 2-0 to Iran having been outplayed for the majority of the match. Iran scored two injury time goals to seal the points and leave Wales bottom of their group.
Ramsey in particular has come in for criticism for his performances, but having played alongside both him and Bale for many years, Davies was not prepared to accept criticism of the pair ahead of the clash with the Three Lions.
“Gareth and Aaron have turned up for Wales over and over again,” Davies told a media conference.
“They’ve shown the quality they have and to be honest, I don’t think we’d be here without them. So to criticise them in any way is is probably very unjust. And I think that we have to put our faith in them that they can that they can one more time do it for us.”
Wales’ poor showings in Qatar have been in stark contrast to what many have come to expect of the team based on performances down the years, and there have been suggestions that this tournament has been a step too far for some.
A win over England will put Wales through to the last 16 so long as the other game in the group, between USMNT and Iran, ends in a draw. If either side wins that game Wales will need to beat England by four goals – and needless to say that would be one of the most remarkable results in World Cup history.
Davies though leaning on his experiences suggested this could be where Wales are at their best: “We’ve performed well when we’ve had our backs against the wall in the past, so we really have got nothing to lose. Now we have to go out there and give the best side of ourselves.
“It’s never easy after a loss. It’s tough to take at any level, especially at the pinnacle [at the World Cup], but that’s football, you know. You have to have to take the highs with the lows.
“We’ve gone back, we’ve talked amongst ourselves, we’ve had meetings as a team, we’ve looked over what didn’t go well. And it’s really been a case of just focusing again, and making sure that we’re going on into the game against England giving everything we’ve got and trying to show the best side of ourselves.”
The defeat to Iran has left Welsh fans shellshocked at the underperformance, with most in belief that this tournament hasn’t been a true reflection of the team they’ve come to know down the years, and Joe Allen also admitting as such ahead of the game. Davies went on to shed some light on what has gone wrong for Wales from his perspective so far.
“We’re a team that set high standards for ourselves; that’s the reason why we’ve got to where we are now and that’s the reason why we’re critical of the last results. It’s only because of the bar that we’ve set ourselves so that we know we can play a lot better.
“You have to respect that we’re up against better opposition in this tournament. Everybody is in the World Cup for a reason. And that reason is because they’re very good teams. We obviously feel like we can play a lot better than we have in those games, but we’re going to have to do that in the one coming up.”
Davies revealed that times were tough in the camp after the loss but there is a determination to look forward – potentially using the US performance against England as a method to follow.
“I think it was a very emotional time for not just us, but everyone involved in Welsh football after the game,” he added. “It’s about, you know, realising that what’s happened has happened and dwelling on a tough game is not really the way forward for us. So it’s been head down on what we need to do to try and get a result.
“We have to maybe look at what USA did well to try and gain some sort of advantage. But it’s it’s not going to be easy at all against an England side who are one of the better sides in this tournament.
“We have one focus is trying to get a result to trying to win the game. And we have to hope that everything else falls into place.”
Luke Shaw has hinted that a video leaked from the Welsh camp of players celebrating England’s loss to Iceland at Euro 2016 has added extra fuel to their motivation ahead of the game on Tuesday, but Davies diplomatically added that any fallout from that tournament – and even England’s defeat of Wales in the group stages in France – is not on the radar.
“Honestly, that’s not in, in our mind at all,” he said. “We could be playing anyone. There’s no added motivation. We just know that we’re up against a very, very good side and we have to really be at our best and hope things go our way.”