Craig Knight excited for second UEFA U17 EURO finals

Craig Knight is relishing another shot at the UEFA European U17 Championships after guiding Cymru to back-to-back final tournaments.

It was back in 1981 that Cymru last qualified for a UEFA men’s intermediate team tournament prior to last year’s appearance at the finals in Hungary.

But Knight’s side have made it two qualifications in a row after securing their place in Cyprus this summer.

“Last year to qualify was really special and to do it in two consecutive years is really beyond our wildest dreams to be honest,” said Knight.

“All credit to both age groups who’ve got themselves into these finals tournaments and given themselves an opportunity to really experience what a finals tournament feels, what it looks like and hopefully stand them in good stead moving forward.

“Following on from last year’s experience and seeing what the tournament entails and what it exposes the players to, I’m really excited for our group of players to be facing that in a couple of weeks.”

Knight has selected a 20-player squad for this year’s tournament and is able to call upon West Bromwich Albion forward Oliver Bostock, who captained Cymru throughout the qualifying and elite rounds.

Norwich City’s Elliot Myles was Cymru’s top scorer in the qualifying campaign and is also included.

Knight acknowledged the difficulty of whittling the list down to 20 but stressed the importance of opportunities for players further down the line, with an eye on the UEFA European U19 Championship finals in Wales in 2026.

“That’s probably the negative side of the job, isn’t it? Ultimately you’re always going to disappoint some players. But what I think we have tried to do in the past is make sure those players who might be on the periphery or may have missed out, that we’re continuing to monitor them. 

“We’re in constant dialogue with them so they don’t feel left out. I think that’s important because maybe the time isn’t right now, but that doesn’t mean to say the time isn’t right in six months’ time or 18 months’ time when that tournament comes around for the under 19s or even at senior level.

“I would say once you’ve pulled on that shirt, it’s never a closed door here in the Wales pathway.”

Brayden Clarke is the first Cymru player to be selected for two UEFA U17 EURO finals tournaments after being part of the squad that played in Hungary last summer.

And Knight says his players will look to draw on the Arsenal defender’s experience.

“I think it was him and Charlie Crew that played every minute of the Euros last year and I think, as it stands, Brayden’s approaching 40 youth caps, which is incredible.

“We’d be looking for him to be a little bit of a leader for those players who maybe haven’t experienced as many international games as Brayden. When we talk about experiences, I think that’s the key one for me, it’s about providing players in our pathway with experiences.”

Cymru were placed in Group B and will kick off their tournament against Denmark at Dasaki Achnas Stadium, Dasaki on Monday 20 May.

Knight’s side will then face Austria at Ammochostos Epistrofi Stadium, Larnaca on Thursday 23 May before rounding off the group stage against Croatia back at Dasaki Achnas Stadium on Sunday 26 May.

“It’s all about those experience of being stretched and pushed beyond their comfort zones. They are tough games but the last 16 of a finals is always going to be tough and you’re not going to have any day trippers or passengers.

“Denmark topped their group and Austria topped their group, which had Spain in it, and Croatia pretty much eliminated the holders Germany, so they’re going to be tough tests.

“But we’ll just trust our process, prepare like we always have and give it a good go.”

Watch now

UEFA U17 EURO finals

Craig Knight discusses his squad

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