Taylor eager to star on big stage


Published: Sunday 16th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Neil Taylor wants Wales to taste ‘Olympic-style’ competition by maintaining their push for Euro 2016 qualification.

Taylor was part of the Team GB football side which competed at the 2012 London Olympics, alongside current international colleagues Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, and says he has the same excitement with Wales top of their European Championship qualifying group after picking up seven points from their opening three matches.

The participation of Wales players in a Great Britain side – former internationals Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy also took part, while Gareth Bale was ruled out by injury – did not sit easily with all Welsh football fans, but Taylor says the experience of London 2012 remains a motivational factor for Chris Coleman’s squad.

“Playing in front of a Millennium Stadium full house at the Olympics was incredible,” Taylor said ahead of Wales’ toughest Group B test to date in Belgium on Sunday evening.

“The competition football was great. We went out in the quarters but we want more of that.

“We want big-time competitive football and so do all the other players like Gareth, Aaron and Joe.

“They are world-class players who want to be on the highest stage and we all want to do it.”

Group favourites Belgium have four points from two matches and the Brussels meeting represents an early battle for supremacy in the section with Bosnia-Herzegovina slow out of the blocks.

The contest also pits Real Madrid ‘galactico’ Bale against Chelsea’s Eden Hazard in an intriguing sub-plot but Taylor is in no doubt as to who is the better player, even if he describes the Belgian as the “best player in the Premier League by a mile.”

“Hazard has developed more under Mourinho and can take Chelsea from edge of his own box to the opposition area,” Swansea full-back Taylor said.

“He can go past you like a ghost. He can go outside or inside, shoot or make you foul him.

“He’s a great player, the best in the Premier League by a mile, and is doing it week-in week-out.

“It’s essential to have those guys in your team and we’ve got one in Gareth.

“He is one of those freaks of nature that come along every now and then, he’s world-class like the Messis and Ronaldos and was born to play football both technically and athletically.

“He knows the onus is on him now and that he’s our biggest player, but he’s used to that because the pressure is on him at Real to train properly, let alone win every game.

“That could take its toll on you but Gareth has the mentality needed where you have to perform and win every game to produce.

“It seems as if he’s learning off Ronaldo and others at Real and, of course, I’d always have Gareth in my team before Hazard. No question.”

Belgium and Wales are recent foes having been pitted together in qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Wales drew 1-1 in Brussels 13 months ago with a massively under-strength team when Ramsey grabbed a late equaliser, and Taylor has warned Belgium to expect far different opposition at the King Baudouin Stadium this time.

“We can take heart from that game and they will remember that as well and know we are even stronger this time round,” Taylor said.

“There is a real momentum now and the feel-good factor is different to anything I’ve seen before.

“They have world-class players but so do we and we can match them. The key is to have a full squad to choose from and we just about have that.

“People will see them as the favourites but the way I look at it is that most of our players are at Premier League level and we are on a level playing field.

“They will definitely fear us and it’s a chance for us to go and do something.”

Published: Sunday 16th November 2014 by The News Editor

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