Embed from Getty Images

Transition And Inconsistency Leave Wales Needing Another Bite


By Paul Jones

Wales must navigate the play-offs in March to reach the European Championship finals next summer.

If they do so, it will be Wales’ fourth major tournament out of the last five.

This is their Euro 2024 story so far and what happens next.

It has been a campaign of transition without talismanic captain Gareth Bale following his retirement in January and the loss of other key players such as midfielder Joe Allen.

Wales began well with a bonus point away to World Cup semi-finalists Croatia – courtesy of Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time equaliser – and a narrow home win over Latvia.

But a sour summer – back-to-beat defeats against Armenia and Turkey – would cost them dear, despite bouncing back with a 2-0 success in Latvia and a sensational 2-1 home victory over Croatia.

Wales had automatic qualification in their hands heading into the final two games, but ultimately fell short with closing 1-1 draws against Armenia and Turkey. Croatia and Turkey qualified as the top two in Group D.

Wales will discover at 11am on Thursday morning who their semi-final opponents will be on March 21.

Manager Rob Page will attend the draw in Switzerland to get a flavour of what stands in his side’s way.

It is a case of one from three countries as Finland, Iceland or Ukraine will be paired with Wales in Path A.

The winners of that tie will play Poland or Estonia in the play-off final on March 26 for the right to play at Euro 2024.Wales will have home advantage for the semi-final, which will be played at Cardiff City Stadium.

That is a huge boost for Wales who have had some special nights in Cardiff in recent times, and beat both Austria and Ukraine there in the 2022 World Cup play-offs.

The Nyon draw on Thursday will also decide who gets home advantage for the March 26 final.

Wales got the breaks in the 2022 World Cup play-offs with two home ties. Will they be as fortunate again?

Ukraine are 22nd in the FIFA rankings, six places above Wales, and present the toughest test on paper.

They were third in England’s qualifying group and might already be preparing for Germany had they been awarded what appeared a certain stoppage-time penalty against Italy on Monday.

Finland won six of their 10 qualifiers and finished four points behind Denmark and Slovenia, while Iceland won only three times in 10 games and were a distant fourth to Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Whoever they play, Wales enter the play-offs with confidence after an unbeaten six-game run of three wins and three draws.

Asked after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Turkey whether he was confident of being the manager to lead Wales towards the Euros, Page gave an emphatic one-word response: “Absolutely.”

On the next few months, he added: “It’s about planning now. I’m off to the draw and we’ll have a staff meeting next week.

“I’ll get the coaches together, probably the week after. We’ll have a review of the camp, if I can say that.

“The planning starts and then I’ll be out watching players.”

Page signed a four-year contract in September 2022 which runs until the 2026 World Cup.

Wales eventually finished third in their Euro 2024 qualifying group after a roller-coaster campaign that saw them take four points from World Cup semi-finalists Croatia but only one off Armenia, ranked 95 in the world.

Turkey and Croatia claimed the two automatic qualifying places as Wales were once more left to contest the play-offs after successfully navigating them to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *