Euro 2016 Spotlight:Wales

It's unfair to call Wales a one-man team. But it's probably not unfair to describes Wales as an 11-man team designed to get the best out of one man, Gareth Bale. Though the team can play in a conventional back four, Wales spent much of qualifying working with variations on a slightly peculiar 3-4-2-1, which features Bale and Aaron Ramsey as dual No. 10s behind a striker, usually Hal Robson-Kanu.

The theory is that Robson-Kanu's running creates spaces for the two players behind him — they are Wales' best, after all — while the unit behind them can be open if the situation demands it but clam right up if Wales are under pressure. And it works, at least for Bale: of the eleven goals the Welsh scored in qualifying, the Real Madrid man picked up seven and created another two. What they'd do without Bale is a question nobody is giving a moment's fraction of a passing thought. At least not while awake. Everybody's had the odd sleepless night.

Anyway, enough of the boring football; let's talk about something else. As befits a nation that hasn't been to the final stages of a major tournament since 1958 — they nearly knocked Pele out of his first World Cup — Wales has decided to make the most of this return to the world stage: in song form. The notion of an official tournament song may be too déclassé for snootier nations like England, but the Welsh couldn't give a flying one and have enlisted the Manic Street Preachers to do theirs. And "Together Stronger (C'Mon Wales)" is exactly everything that anybody could ever want from an official football song.

Overlaid commentary of failures from times gone by? Check. Shout-outs to terrace anthems? Check. Video with the entire squad bouncing around? Check. The assertion that all the team needs to win is to be together? Check. A line calling out Joe Jordan as a filthy stinking handballing cheat? That might be Wales-specific, true, but check nonetheless. The joyful listing of players by name? HAL ROBSON-KANUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

So precisely correct is the song that it almost doesn't matter whether it's "good" or "bad;" it transcends such irrelevant questions of taste by being wholly appropriate. (Though it's belting, obviously.) It also ensures that Nicky Wire, who wrote the words, can lay claim to what is almost certainly the broadest range of any lyricist working today; his oeuvre now stretches from "Worms in the garden more real than McDonald's/Drain your blood and let the Exxon spill in," to "When Gareth Bale plays we can beat any side." A true utility lyricist.

But the ending of a 58-year wait deserves more than one song, and up to the unofficial Welsh plate have stepped Super Furry Animals. Taking a different tack to the Manics, "BingBong" is five peculiar minutes of insistent, psychedelic pop, inspired by "defeat, victory, cosmic disco and Buck Rodgers." Whether the crowds in France will spend their time singing "bing bong bing bong bing bong" remains to be seen.

Further sung praise to Rosbon-Kanu — who really does have the best name — comes from Tigana's engagingly jangly "Dyddian Coch" ("Red Days") and Argument City, who wrote a song that sounded "too much" like a Manics song, nearly threw it away, decided instead to whack some football lyrics on it, called it "Spirit of '58" and beat the official song to release by a couple of weeks. Welsh fans that prefer the listing of locations to footballers can satisfy themselves with "This Is Wales" by the Barry Horns, a group of traveling Wales fans armed with brass instruments. Though ultimately, however many songs come out — the above and plenty more are archived here — it seems unlikely that anything's going to prove quite as catchy as Zombie Nation.

Schedule & Results

Saturday, Jun. 11
Thursday, Jun. 16
Monday, Jun. 20
Saturday, Jun. 25
Friday, Jul. 1
Wednesday, Jul. 6