Portugal preparations for Cymru WU17

The Cymru WU17 squad head to Portugal next month to continue their preparations for the upcoming UEFA qualifiers and head coach Nia Davies is excited about the prospect of taking on strong opposition in Denmark, Italy and the hosts.

A recent change in the competition format means that qualification for the intermediate finals now involves two rounds of group fixtures with promotion and relegation in a similar style to the UEFA Nations League. The format ensures additional competitive games are played against countries of a comparable level, and was introduced to give more nations the opportunity to qualify for the finals while improving the development of players through more competitively balanced matches. 

Cymru WU17 were promoted as Group B5 winners in Round 1 of the 2023 edition last November, but were relegated from Group A7 in March in Round 2. Despite the setback, Davies is positive about the upcoming campaign. “We found it quite challenging in that tournament,” she explained to FAW.cymru. “But we were more competitive than we thought, so the really good thing is that half of the squad have experienced Group A and Group B, and that’s really encouraging moving forward. When we compared our team against our opponents in Group A we were a very young team. I’m confident that the squad we have now will be better for that experience and I’m excited for the next games.” 

Defeats to the Netherlands, Finland and group winners Sweden in Group A7 confirmed relegation for Cymru, but there were plenty of positives to take from the performances. “We had the Netherlands first,” explained Davies. “That was always going to be a challenge not just physically, but also because of their tactical and technical ability. We held them until around 40 minutes and created a few problems for them and they had to change shape, which was a compliment to us. The biggest thing we learnt is that we can compete against these teams, we just have to sustain that a little bit longer and be a little bit more adaptable when they change their tactics. 

“As a coaching team and the players on the pitch we have to recognise when that happens and combat their changes if needed. Having the girls in our Academy programme means we see them a lot more often, and they’re definitely physically and technically adapting, but now it’s working out how we can tactically be efficient when the opposition change their game plan. We have to recognise it from the sideline and the players have to recognise it from a young age. To cause the Netherlands problems was quite a positive thing, and we had chances ourselves, but we couldn’t finish them.” 

Cymru will take on host nation Portugal on Wednesday, 20 September in Massamá (6pm) before facing Denmark in Jamor three days later at 3pm, and will round off the training camp with a match against Italy back in Massamá at 10am on Tuesday 26 September. The squad will then return to competitive action in November as they take on Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands and hosts Albania between 20 and 27 November in Group B4. “We will probably have more time out of possession in the September camp and when we go to Albania we will probably spend more time with the ball,” Davies added. “So that variety will be an opportunity for us and we will see where we are after November.”

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