Should We Support Wales Or France This Summer?
It is perhaps difficult to start looking further afield when our Premier League safety has yet to be mathematically secured, plus the wonderful occasion of another day out at Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Manchester United.
However, the upcoming European Championships in France has all the ingredients of being a fantastic tournament, with some of the best players in world football and an increase in the number of participating teams likely to produce some enthralling matches that will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
There is a good chance that up to four of Alan Pardew’s squad will represent the club at Euro 2016, and while I would argue that Scott Dann and Damien Delaney should be playing for England and Ireland respectively, it appears that Eagles fans have a choice between backing Wales or France to succeed.
You could, of course, remain patriotic and get behind England, who Betway rate amongst the darkhorses to win Euro 2016, but those who like to keep track of the progress of their favourite Palace players can either turn into Welsh or French fans this summer.
Qualifying for their first ever European Championship is a considerable achievement for Wales, with former Eagles favourite Chris Coleman, who spent four years at Selhurst Park under Steve Coppell during the early nineties, leading them to Euro 2016. He built on the foundations left by the late Gary Speed to guide Wales through a tricky qualifying group which contained Belgium and Bosnia to participate at a major international tournament for the first time since 1958.
Coleman will certainly relish the ‘Battle of Britain’ clash against England, while he may also fancy his team’s chances against other Group B opponents Russia and Slovakia. Fans can keep track of their progress and back them to succeed with Betway, and although they are considered rank outsiders to pull off a feat as big as Leicester City in the Premier League this season, you can only hope that they do themselves proud.
Reaching the knock-out stages would represent success for Wales, and while Gareth Bale is undoubtedly the star of the show who holds the key to how well they do this summer, three Palace stars are also likely to play their part.
Wayne Hennessey has established himself as number one for club and country this season, with the twenty-nine year old overcoming some difficult times between the posts this season. He will have to stand up tall this summer if Wales are to progress from the group stage, but Hennessey has proven that he is capable of pulling off some excellent saves when it really matters.
The goalkeeper is likely to be joined in the Wales squad by Joe Ledley and Johny Williams, with the former earning cult status due to his considerable beard that appears to have set a trend at Selhurst Park. Williams, who has spent the season out on loan at Championship clubs Nottingham Forest and MK Dons, is likely to be used as an impact sub, but Ledley is a key member of Coleman’s midfield as the person to break down attacks and distribute the ball forward. His ability to strike a cracking shot with his left peg could also come in handy if Wales are searching for goals, but it may not matter if Bale hit tops gear and proves why he is the most expensive player in world football.
It appears more surprising as every impressive performance passes by that Delaney has been shunned by Martin O’Neill for the Ireland squad, with the 34-year-old announcing his retirement from international football counting him out of representing his country at Euro 2016 at a time when he is in good form in the Premier League. His omission leaves Palace fans with two options if we choose not to watch Hennessey, Ledley and Joniesta represent Wales. We can either remain loyal to England amid the inevitable feeling of disappointment and anguish that usually greets our support, or back Yohan Cabaye to shine for the hosts.
Signing the former Newcastle midfielder has proved to be a masterstroke from Pardew, with Cabaye becoming an instant fan favourite as an all round player who has all the qualities you want from someone in his position. He has added an extra dimension to Palace’s play this season, with his qualities on the ball likely to be used by Didier Deschamps who has been a long term admirer of what Cabaye brings to the table.
France are considered favourites to repeat the feat of eighteen years ago and win another tournament on home soil, and while the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will receive all the attention, Cabaye could be just as crucial by sitting in front of the back four and dictating play.
The ‘Claude Makelele’ role may suit him, and if the home nation handle the pressure and expectation on their shoulders, then Cabaye could well return to Selhurst Park with a Euro 2016 winners medal around his neck.