Talking points as Wales look to pip Croatia to Euro 2024 spot in final round

By Isaac M November 20, 2023

Wales welcome Turkey to Cardiff for their final Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday.Rob Page’s side must win and hope Croatia do not beat Armenia in order to secure automatic European Championship qualification and avoid the play-offs in March.

Here, the PA news agency studies some of the main talking points surrounding the game.

Favour needed

Wales’ disappointing 1-1 draw in Armenia on Saturday took automatic qualification out of their hands heading in to the final round of matches.

Croatia seized advantage by winning 2-0 in Latvia to move in to the box-seat and claim the second spot behind Turkey.

The mathematics for Wales are simple: nothing other than beating Turkey will do, while praying Croatia do not finish with victory.

Armenia have been Wales’ bogeymen in this group by taking four points from them, but they now need a huge favour from the team ranked 95 in the world.

Play-off lifeline

Amid the gloom of a flat performance against Armenia in Yerevan and Croatia’s subsequent success a few hours later, it was overlooked that Wales actually secured a play-off spot on Saturday due to other results across Europe.

Wales would have suffered the agony of missing out on the play-offs had three from Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the Czech Republic missed out on automatic qualification.

While Italy and the Czechs await their fate on Monday, Netherlands’ 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Kosovo secured their places at Euro 2024 and gave Wales a play-off safety net.

Wales now hope Italy and the Czech Republic confirm their places in Germany next summer and provide them with a home play-off semi-final in March.

 Will the real Wales stand up?

Two months, two games, two very contrasting displays.

October saw Wales produce one of their best performances of recent times as Croatia, World Cup semi-finalists less than 12 months ago, were downed in 2-1 in Cardiff.

Confidence was running high going into November’s camp but, having been stunned by an early Armenia goal, Wales were disjointed and fortunate not to lose again to a team ranked 67 places below them in FIFA’s world order.

Boss Rob Page’s task now is to rediscover the fizz and fluency that swept aside Croatia and shelve the anxiety and hesitancy that bedevilled them in Armenia.

Defensive Locks?

Wales must make at least one change with defender Chris Mepham suspended after collecting a third booking of the campaign in Armenia.

Tom Lockyer has had an eventful time over the last six months – winning promotion with Luton and requiring heart surgery after collapsing on the Wembley turf in the Championship play-off final.

But Lockyer, known as ‘Locks’, might get the nod over Ben Cabango to join Joe Rodon and skipper Ben Davies in Wales’ three-man central defence against Turkey.

Tottenham’s Brennan Johnson could also be restored to the attack, despite an underwhelming second-half performance off the bench in Armenia.

Talented Turkey

Turkey are on the rise again after missing out on the 2022 World Cup and underperforming at the last two European Championships when exiting at the group stage.

Having sacked Stefan Kuntz and appointed Vincenzo Montella as head coach halfway through Euro 2024 qualification, Turkey have won five of their seven games and sewed up a top-two spot last month.

Turkey avenged a solitary defeat to Croatia by winning 1-0 in Osijek, and their soaring confidence was underlined by a 3-2 friendly victory over Germany in Berlin on Saturday.

Real Madrid’s Arda Guler, who scored in sensational style against Wales in June, and Kenan Yildiz, of Juventus, are both 18-year-old attacking midfielders and rated two of the brightest prospects in European football.

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