Cymru head to Moldova and the Netherlands over the course of the next few days as Paul Bodin's side look to extend their undefeated start to UEFA U21 EURO qualifying.
UEFA U21 EURO QUALIFYING ROUND
Moldova v Cymru
- 16:00 Friday 8 October
Netherlands v Cymru
- 19:00 Tuesday 12 October
Both matches live online with Sgorio
The side currently sit second in the Group E table despite being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Moldova in the opening match of the campaign back in the summer, and last month claimed a very impressive 4-0 win against Bulgaria in Sofia as Jack Vale scored a perfect hat-trick to make the headlines. Switzerland are the early pace-setters in the group following their opening two victories, but Bodin is pleased with the start his team has made, especially as they are yet to concede a goal.
“We were a bit depleted last time after the squad was announced but the young lads who came in all joined the group and were tremendous,” said Bodin following the squad announcement last week. “This age group is still very personally transitional for the players. You have some players who are still in the U23's for their clubs, some players are on the bench for the 1st team, so there's a mixed bag in terms of fitness. But in terms of the group as a whole I'm really pleased and we're looking forward to the two important games coming up.”
“Jack (Vale) is keen to come back with us on the back of his tremendous hat-trick. Left foot, right foot and a header, the perfect hat-trick. He was a real threat. He's a great player, he's still learning and he's got great potential, but when he puts on a performance like he did against Bulgaria you can see that he's a real, real player of great ability. If he can continue in that form then the future will be very bright for him and for us.”
Cymru have never qualified for the finals the UEFA U21 EURO tournament, and while Bodin would love to take his squad to the 2023 edition that takes place in Georgia and Romania, the focus remains very much on development and players progressing through to the senior international squad. “Brandon (Cooper) is a great example of a young player who is developing fantastically well,” explained Bodin. “He's been a real leader in our intermediate age groups. We're delighted when he gets called up (to the senior squad), he hasn't played yet but I'm sure it will just be a matter of time. He's a real leader and he will be our captain. We're looking forward to getting him in our group as opposed to moving up this time.
“I know it's a cliché but you do take each game as it comes. Moldova is never an easy place to go, and as we saw in the summer they're very rigid, they use a deep block and they're very difficult to breakdown. You've got to be clinical. We're focused on Moldova, and once we're got that one out of the way we can focus and travel to the Netherlands and prepare for that one. They play fantastic football, they're well-educated and they're comfortable in possession. We will have all the possession against Moldova so they will be two different types of games. But we're looking forward to it as we want to test ourselves against the best.”
The match against Moldova takes place in Orhei on Friday (8 October) before the side head to Nijmegan to take on the Netherlands on Tuesday (12 October). It was back in November 1996 that Cymru claimed a 1-0 win away to the Netherlands at U21 level when Simon Haworth scored the only goal of the game in Breda, but Bodin is not expecting history to count for too much when the two sides meet next week. “It could be mentioned but it's all about the current squad as they're most important people at the present time,” he added. “We're going into these games on the back of a decent run and we will primarily be focusing on our current form.
“We've had some ups and downs, but we thoroughly enjoyed the Bulgaria game from the way we approached it to the way we played throughout the game. What we talk about continually is about being clinical, and that was in evidence for sure against Bulgaria. These boys show that they can play at international level, even if they're not holding down a place with their club with any regularity. It showcases their talents and that's what we're about.
“We're also trying to help them develop and improve while they're on camp, even though it's only for a short space of time and generally it's about preparing for games. But hopefully they come on camp and learn different things from different coaches, and anything that can help them individually we're certainly there to aid and help that. A few boys are now looking to establish themselves at their new clubs and I'm sure they will do.”
The nine qualifying groups will run until 14 June 2022 with the nine group winners and the best runner-up (not counting results against the bottom team) qualifying directly along with host nations Georgia and Romania for the final tournament that will take place in 2023. The other eight runners-up will play off for the remaining four places in September 2022.