EURO 2020: Ryan Giggs case casts shadow over Wales

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CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — For Wales, the buildup to the European Championship has been completely overshadowed by the criminal charges against coach Ryan Giggs.

The former Manchester United winger was charged in April with assaulting two women and exerting controlling and coercive behavior. His trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 24, 2022, with a preparation hearing set for July.

Giggs is still nominally the coach but assistant Robert Page will be in charge of the team at Euro 2020, starting with group games against Switzerland and Turkey in Baku, Azerbaijan, and then another against Italy in Rome.

It's a subdued return to a major tournament for Wales, which reached the semifinals at Euro 2016 under coach Chris Coleman in its first appearance at a European Championship. The team lost to eventual champion Portugal five years ago.

Page has been quietly successful in his tenure with Wales since Giggs was arrested in November. The team has won four of its six games under its temporary coach and won promotion to the top tier of the Nations League. The only setback was a 3-1 loss to Belgium, the team Wales defeated in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals.

As usual in recent times, Gareth Bale is the star of the Welsh team. The speedy forward spent the season on loan at his old club Tottenham after facing questions regarding his motivation at Real Madrid.

Bale and his Wales teammates celebrated qualifying for Euro 2020 by dancing with a fan banner reading “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order" after beating Hungary in 2019. That slogan began as a response to a former Madrid player who accused Bale of lacking enthusiasm for the club.

The other big name for Wales, Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, has missed most of Wales' games in the last three years with various injuries and has barely played at club level since March but will be a big boost if he's fully fit. Ramsey scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Hungary in 2019 which secured qualification.

Elsewhere in the squad, center back Joe Rodon and right back Neco Williams were occasionally impressive as bit-part players for Tottenham and Liverpool, respectively, this season. Midfielder Ethan Ampadu got valuable game time on loan from Chelsea at relegated Sheffield United this season, mostly playing as a defender, and has been selected despite missing the end of the season with an injury. Veteran defender Chris Gunter marked his 100th Wales appearance in March and adds experience to an otherwise fairly young squad, even if he usually plays in England's third division.

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The Associated Press