Cymru are just two victories away from qualifying for a third successive EURO finals and manager Rob Page believes the results will arrive if his side can maintain the same standards that delivered a famous 2-1 win over Croatia last month.
“We want to win both games to qualify as it’s in our own hands,” said Page at his squad announcement. “We’re after two wins and we’ve proven that we can compete against the top sides in Europe. As long as we keep those standards we’ve set in recent camps, irrespective of who we’re up against, the results will take care of themselves.”
The first test for Cymru is a difficult trip to Yereven to face Armenia on Saturday, 18 November. The Armenians produced a shock result in Cardiff back in June when they claimed a 4-2 victory. “We didn’t like what we saw in June,” explained Page. “We put things right in September and built on it in October, and then capped it off with one of the best performances that I’ve seen, but we’ve got to build on that as it will count for nothing if we don’t follow it up. We need to sustain those levels.”
The final match in Group D will take place at the Cardiff City Stadium against Türkiye on Tuesday, 21 November. Türkiye have already booked their place at the EURO 2024 finals in Germany, and Cymru, Armenia and Croatia are all in contention to join them in the remaining automatic qualification spot. It promises to be a tense final round of fixtures, but Page is taking it one game at a time.
“We could have scored more goals against Croatia,” he added. “When it all comes together we can be a force to be reckoned with, but then we have to do it consistently. Having gone through the experience and the pressure of the World Cup play-offs, the lads will be fine with that, and the message is that we will take it one game at a time. It’s all about the first game.”
Ben Davies is set to once again captain Cymru in the continued absence of Aaron Ramsey, while Brennan Johnson makes a welcome return to the squad having missed the October games through injury. “Aaron was pushing to get fit for this camp but unfortunately it has come a bit too soon for him,” said Page. “It’s not great for us, but it gives others an opportunity. He will be in and around and part of the camp, and that’s beneficial. It’s frustrating for him because he got so close.
“We had a few injuries last time but we want to continue the momentum that we finished with in the last camp. It’s all about competition for places. We’ve always said we want that and it’s a good problem for a manager to have. Brennan’s a different type of player to Kieffer, and he’s proving at club level that he can play in a multitude of positions, and there’s quite a few now competing for those front positions.”
One new addition to the squad is 22-year old full-back Niall Huggins who has impressed for Sunderland this season. “I really like Niall,” Page added. “I have done since I first came into the job. He’s athletic, he’s playing with a young team that play with a lot of energy. He can play on both sides, right and left, he’s an attack-minded player and he fits in with how we want to play really, really well.
“With more strength-in-depth and competition for places, it creates a very healthy environment. We knew coming into camp after the World Cup that changes had to be made. We got that all-important point with Croatia at the start of the campaign, and the manner in which we got that point was incredible, so we had that belief back in March that we could go and compete and qualify.”
Harry Wilson scored both goals in the crucial 2-1 win over Croatia that has put qualification for EURO 2024 back in Cymru’s own hands, and he is joined in the squad by midfielder Joe Morrell who returns after missing out through suspension last time around. Meanwhile, Charlie Savage and Joe Low have returned to the U21 squad for their vital qualifiers against Iceland and Denmark.