Wales manager Chris Coleman promised that his team were not coming to Euro 2016 “for a laugh”, but his players have been having the time of their lives in France. From Gareth Bale’s training-ground tomfoolery to Joe Ledley’s outlandish dance moves, the Welsh players have seemed immune to the pressures of major tournament football.
Friday’s quarterfinal with Belgium is Wales’s biggest game since a 1-0 loss to Brazil in the last eight at the 1958 World Cup, but Coleman’s men are taking everything in their stride.
“With our team spirit, it’s like being with your mates on holiday,” said Real Madrid star Bale, lead prankster at the team’s Dinard base in Brittany, northwest France. “Doing quizzes all the time, playing games. The fact we all enjoy spending time with each other, it helps with the downtime.”
A Wales international since the age of 16, Bale feels perfectly at home in the national set-up and his relaxed attitude has rubbed off on his team-mates.
Underpinning the camaraderie is a formidable team spirit that reflects the fact many of Coleman’s players have represented Wales for years. Bale, Chris Gunter, Neil Taylor and Aaron Ramsey were playing for the Wales Under-17 team as far back as 2006.