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Euro 2016 profile: Wales running international gauntlet

Gareth Bale has Wales Euro ambition

Aaron Ramsey, right and Gareth Bale celebrate after they scored against Israel  of Wales during the Euro 2016 qualifying group B soccer match in Haifa, Israel, Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

In our latest Euro 2016 profile on Wales, Gareth Bale holds lively outsider odds to take the tournament by storm and be top scorer.

We continue to profile all 24 teams at the Euro 2016 finals in France, so punters are in the know when it comes to the sides on show this summer.

Wales enthralled neutrals during qualifying, as the Dragons managed to reach their first major tournament finals since 1958. Now, can Chris Coleman’s grafters step up on the big stage? Betfair have Gareth Bale and company priced at a cracking 11/2 to be surprise Pool B winners head of neighbours England, Russia and Slovakia.

History at the Euros: Well… it doesn’t look pretty for the Welsh if you cast your eye over the archives. From 14 attempts, Wales have qualified for the finals just once, this time around, making France their first foray. Gulp. Still, on the plus side, it shows Chris Coleman’s crew can be history boys.

Head coach: Coleman is most famous as a player for his time as a decent defender for Manchester City, Swansea City and Fulham among others, when the now 45-year-old grabbed a couple of Welsh Cups with the Swans and snared an old First Division title with the Cottagers.

Coleman, capped 32 times, also coached Fulham, Real Sociedad, Coventry City and Greek guys Larissa before taking up the mantle for his nation from the late Gary Speed and is still to win a trophy as a coach.

Key player: Gareth Bale (50/1 with PaddyPower to be top scorer in France) is the golden boy of this current crop, succeeding where former legends have failed by spearheading his side to the Euros.

Now 10 goals shy of smashing Wales’ all-time top scorer record of 28 from Ian Rush, barring injury, the Real Madrid wingman may just complete that feat in coming years.

Bale’s strikes were crucial in qualifying, in which he was joint-top pool poacher with seven, so the demonstrative Dragons support will be expecting more of the same this summer.

Rising star: There could be a few calls here, though all of promising attacking midfielders Tom Lawrence, George Williams and Jonathan Williams​ have inconsistencies to iron out, while Walsall striker Tom Bradshaw has been lethal but so far only in League One.

So, instead this nomination goes to Wigan Athletic-owned anchorman Emyr Huws​ (22), who is currently on loan at Championship club Huddersfield Town. A disruptive and defensive midfielder by trade, Huws is also developing an eye for attack – with five goals and three assists for his Yorkshire club this campaign.

Wild card: Southampton-born striker Sam Vokes didn’t have the best output as Burnley tumbled out of the Premier League in 2015 following a serious knee injury. Yet, the 26-year-old has been restored to his former potency by Sean Dyche, with 14 in all competitions for the Clarets.

Vibrant Vokes could yet be the best foil for Bale if Coleman want to truly threaten teams across the Channel.

Confirmed Wales Euro 2016 fixtures

All kick-offs are British Summer Time (BST)

Saturday, June 11: Group B, Wales v Slovakia (17:00); Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, BBC
Thursday, June 16: Group B, England v Wales (14:00); Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens, BBC
Monday, June 20: Group B, Russia v Wales (20:00); Stadium Municipal, Toulouse​, ITV

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