How Chris Coleman used Rafael Benitez's preferred tactics tool to guide Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016

Joe Hall
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Russia v Wales - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016
King Chris: Guiding Wales to a major tournament semi-final was by far the greatest achievement of Coleman's career to date (Source: Getty)

With 10 players in his squad playing in England's second or third tiers last season, the onus was on Wales manager Chris Coleman to be a man with a specific tactical plan if his side were to achieve something special at Euro 2016.

His side may have fallen narrowly short of the ultimate prize following a 2-0 loss to Portugal in Wednesday's semi-final, yet what they accomplished in France has eclipsed perhaps anything else in Wales's sporting history.

The nation has an array of ingredients to thank — including the individual talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey — yet it is hard to argue that Wales could have accomplished what they did without Coleman first developing a clear strategy and then providing his players with perfectly understood instructions.

In order to do so, the former Fulham and Coventry boss used Globall Coach, a high-tech tactics board for the digital age first developed by Rafael Benitez while he was manager of Liverpool.

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Instead of potentially bamboozling their players with crisscrossing lines and directions scattered over a chalkboard, Coleman and Wales' coaching staff harness Globall Coach's software to visualise instructions and data on Sharp's Big Pad super sized tablet.

Doing so has helped the Wales squad adjust to an otherwise unfamiliar system that is often tweaked from game to game depending on the opposition.

Welsh FA technical director Osian Roberts has described the software as "essential for us in our preparation for matches at Euro 2016".

Since adopting the system in 2014, ahead of what would prove to be a first successful major tournament qualifying campaign for 58 years, Wales have improved their win ratio by just under 25 per cent.

"They [Wales] use it as a very simple visual tool," Globall Coach executive Ciaran Skinner told City A.M. "If it wasn't for us they'd just have paper and pen.

Henry uses Globall Coach at an FAW coaching session (Source: Getty)

"It's been well documented the way Wales set up and enjoyed success using a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1. But none of the players that come into the national side play in that formation for their clubs. The two centre-backs will play in a back four while players who are usually full-backs are playing as wing-backs. Gareth Bale played in a different role than the one he performs for Real Madrid.

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"So it's really important for the coaches that with the minimum contact time that they have — they only get to see the players for about six weeks a year — that the players are aware of exactly what they're doing when they go out on the pitch.

"Imagine you're in a room with all the players and you've not seen each other for two months and then you're using a paper and pen with Xs and Os on a flip-chart. You're not going to have the same response or success."

As well as pre-match briefings, the software was also used by analysts in the stands or assistants on the bench to quickly draw up animation examples of troubling transitions or second-half scenarios players needed to be aware of.

Developing coaches such as Thierry Henry and Mikel Arteta, who has joined Pep Guardiola's staff at Manchester City, have used the platform to learn new drills when studying for their Uefa A and B coaching qualifications with the Football Association of Wales (FAW).

First developed for Benitez, who needed simple visual accompaniment to demonstrate tactics to a layman's audience at the Liverpool Empire in 2012, Globall Coach has now been conscripted to Newcastle, Brentford, Bolton, and Hull in an era of increasingly tech-savvy football clubs.

The developers also believe the product helps coaches by highlighting and presenting in a more digestible format the most relevant data sets from the reams of statistics they receive from providers such as Opta.

"They may not have the time nor technical team to be able to mine that information," says Skinner. "They only want snapshots."

"Every coach needs to get their players to digest their ideas as quickly and easily as possible, to make sure they’re going out onto the pitch and know exactly what they want to do."

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