Why Kieffer Moore has to start against Switzerland in EURO 2020 opener
Wales start EURO 2020 on Saturday against Switzerland at the Olympic Stadium in Baku and there is a selection puzzle waiting for them.
Wales’ inaugural opponents won’t be child’s play either – after all, they are ranked 13th in the official FIFA World Rankings and can call on Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Haris Seferovic.
Realistically, however, it is home to Wales’ best opportunity to win three points in what promises to be a hard-fought group stage.
The inclusion of a player may just dictate the outcome.
Those aforementioned friendlies – none of which resulted in the Red Dragons winning – shared a unified outcry. An outcry for Kieffer Moore to lead the line.
Recently, Robert Page chose to use Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey in the fake new role. He played both friendlies in this position, but it’s easy to see why so many Welsh fans want to see Moore armed as the team’s focal point this month.
He just has to start.
Moore, who is making his debut at his first international tournament since making his Welsh bow in September 2019, has just scored 20 goals for Cardiff City.
His inspired first campaign with the Bluebirds made him the first Cardiff player to reach that hallowed benchmark since the late but great Peter Whittingham in 2009/10, making the forward a beloved figure in the Welsh capital.
However, it wasn’t just his ability to find the back of the net that got him so much applause.
Standing at an imposing height at 6’5, Moore towers over most opposing defenders and has a considerable aerial advantage. In the 20/21 Championship campaign, he won the most aerial duels per game with an almighty 10.5. The closest competitor? Rotherham forward Matt Smith, with seven to his name.
And, with a number of Welsh squad players capable of executing menacing deliveries such as Dan James, David Brooks, Harry Wilson and even Gareth Bale, his prowess in the air may well come to fruition.
Obviously, the 28-year-old also possesses supreme physical prowess. With ease, he can ignore defenders, hold the ball and send hits – when you have players like James and Bale who are quick and tend to run behind, this is a vital asset to have on your team.
Moore’s bonding game, however, tends to go under the radar. This can perhaps be attributed to notions synonymous with players of his stature, with the general feeling that towering center-forwards like him are destined to function like a ram just to “sabotage” the ball. While he can fill this role, there is much more to his game that betrays fallacies.
The former Wigan Athletic hitman comes with a graceful first touch, which he often flaunts before embarking on a driving race in dangerous positions on the pitch. It’s seemingly unthinkable that a 6’5 footballer could move quickly and lead the chains, but that’s exactly what Moore has done on so many occasions for Cardiff.
Equally impressive is his pace of work – a tireless and relentless clerk for the team, Moore frequently descends deep to put the ball in and relentlessly pushes forward, allowing openings in the final third and characterizing the high intensity that the Wales loves to deploy.
Anyone who has seen the striker in action for Cardiff or Wales will agree; there is more to Moore than meets the eye.
And as for Ramsey, he’s a must-have on Page’s side too. He, unlike a plethora of young talent in Wales, has extensive experience in international tournaments and played in their magical run to EURO 2016 from the midfield.
Five years after the legendary memories in France, Ramsey’s talent is still undeniable. He’s a more suited talent in the middle of the park, given his ability to put on precise passes, venture forward in possession and play between the lines.
It has worked throughout his career, stretching back to his formative years at Cardiff and now, his decorated days at Arsenal and Juventus. Likewise, Moore’s employment as a focal point has been a real treat for Wales.
Although originally from the coastal town of Torquay, Cornwall, Moore qualifies for Wales thanks to his Welsh grandmother and has amassed 17 caps to date, scoring five goals and playing a key role in their qualification for the European Championships.
It would be a shame, potentially a game changer for the tournament, if Moore didn’t lead the line this summer.
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)