The UEFA Nations League has officially begun and has already provided a busy few days of international football with a competitive edge.
Denmark top League B Group 4 following their 2-0 win over Wales earlier today, with Ryan Giggs' side sitting in second place having played a game more than the leaders and the Republic of Ireland. The action continues next month when Wales head to Dublin.
Here are the remaining fixtures and current standings -
13th October - Republic of Ireland v Denmark
16th October - Republic of Ireland v Wales
16th November - Wales v Denmark
19th November - Denmark v Republic of Ireland
Manager Ryan Giggs was keen to keep the result in context following the 2-0 defeat to Denmark in the UEFA Nations League.
"I thought the performance was ok," said Giggs. "In the 1st half we competed, but it was a bad goal that we gave away. We spoke about not leaving Eriksen free, especially on the edge of the box, and he finds himself free. So I was disappointed to go 1-0 down as I thought it was pretty even.
"In the 2nd half we started really well, and we were in it, and then the penalty decision, which looked harsh. After that it was uphill against a good team. You could see the fatigue setting in, they were a lot fresher than us. A lot of our lads had played two games, so you could see in the end we just tired a bit.
"We set the standard on Thursday, and to repeat that is difficult, but that's what I've challenged the players to do. I think that we can do it. Overall, I can't fault the effort, it was two games in a short space of time, and we were in it up until the penalty decision.
"All the lads are down, but there were positives, and things we have to work on. We'll learn from it and move on."
Gareth Bale believes Wales will take positives from the 2-0 defeat to Denmark in Aarhus.
"It's disappointing to lose," said Bale after the match. "We obviously wanted to win the game. I think we have to look at the positives, we stayed in it and we fought hard. It's all new to us and we're still working on things. It's a process, but at the same time we want to get results and perform well.
"They're a very good team, they showed that at the World Cup, and being away from home is always going to be more difficult. We played well in phases, but they were a bit fresher having only played one game. We'll look back on it, take positives, and look at things to work on."
Manager Ryan Giggs has made two changes to his starting line-up for the UEFA Nations League match against Denmark in Aarhus.
Defenders Chris Gunter and James Chester both start having only made the bench for the 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland on Thursday. Gareth Bale will captain the side in the absence of Ashley Williams.
That brings our pre-match coverage to a close. Follow @Cymru for live updates during the match and check back here later for all the post-match reaction.
The excitement is building ahead of kick-off as Wales prepare to take on Denmark in Aarhus.
In order to ramp it up another level, click on the video below to take a look at the highlights from Thursday's incredible 4-1 UEFA Nations League win over the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.
German Deniz Aytekin will referee the match between Wales and Denmark in the UEFA Nations League later today.
The 40-year old from Nuremberg has been a FIFA referee since 2011 and recently took charge of Borussia Dortmund's 4-1 win over RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
Wales supporters who are attending the UEFA Nations League match against Denmark in Ceres Park today (9 September) are requested to take note of the following information from the FAW Security Officer:
Debate has been held in relation to the provision of alcoholic beverages at tonight’s game after concern was raised over circulation and crowd density in Ceres Park.
The bars will remain open and supporters are asked to take advantage of local laws, which (unlike in the UK) allow drinks to be consumed in the seating bowl.
Please refrain from congregating in the multi-functional concourse area because it’s primary function is circulation.
Please note, if problems relating to circulation develop the food and beverage units will close.
A technical fault kept the team plane on the Cardiff runway for longer than expected on Saturday.
As a result, Ryan Giggs and his squad didn't arrive at the team hotel in Aarhus until the early hours of Sunday morning. The delay meant that there was no pre-match press conference or training session at the stadium as planned.
However, Denmark completed all their pre-match press duties, with manager Age Hareide sharing his observations on Giggs' Wales. "It's like Ryan Giggs has created a copy of the old Manchester United team," said Hareide.
"The enthusiasm in their play offensively, they're very quick between the lines and they go forward with a lot of people. So that looks like United in the best period under Alex Ferguson. In many ways Ryan Giggs adopted what he learnt from many years there."
Captain Ashley Williams will not be part of Ryan Giggs' Wales squad for the match against Denmark in the UEFA Nations League this evening as he continues his journey back to full fitness.
Williams captained the side in the 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland on Thursday, and while he will not be involved in the fixture against Denmark, Giggs has asked him to travel with the squad to Aarhus for his experience. A new captain will be confirmed when the teams are announced later this afternoon.
Wales and Denmark have previously met eight times, with both teams winning four games each.
The first meeting between the two nations took place in Copenhagen back in October 1964. Denmark won the match 1-0 thanks to a solitary goal from Ole Madson on 48 minutes. Managed by Dave Bowen, the Wales starting line-up included the likes of Cliff Jones, Terry Hennessey and future manager Mike England.
The last meeting between Wales and Denmark also took place in Copenhagen, as John Toshack's team claimed a 1-0 victory through a goal from Craig Belllamy in November 2008. Current players Chris Gunter, Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Sam Vokes and captain Ashley Williams were all included in the Wales squad for that international friendly.
Pione Sisto will be a familiar name for Wales fans with an interest in the fortunes of the intermediate teams, as the Denmark winger scored twice against our U21 side in a 4-0 win back in September 2016.
Now an established member of the senior squad, the exciting Celta Vigo player made headlines of a different kind last week, by missing the message about the decision of the Danish squad not to travel to Slovakia for the international friendly.
ESPN report that Sisto arrived in Vienna airport the day before the match expecting to meet up with the rest of the team, but after finding himself alone, he was eventually told to return to Copenhagen.
"I have received many messages on my phone in recent days, but have not read them all," Sisto explained to a reporter at the time. "One of them may be from the Player Association. I have to check it out."
Sisto has now been included in the senior squad to take on Wales in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday. Meanwhile, Ton Lockyer, Harry Wilson and Connor Roberts were all part of the U21 team for that match in Wrexham back in 2016, and are now part of Ryan Giggs' senior squad.
Denmark's senior players have put their contractual dispute with the DBU on the back-burner to concentrate on the UEFA Nations League and will be back to full-strength to take on Wales in Aarhus on Sunday.
Here is the Denmark squad that will take on Ryan Giggs' Wales -
Kasper Schemichel (Leicester), Frederik Ronnow (Frankfurt), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Andereas Christianesen (Chelsea), Nicolai Boilesen (FC Copenhagen), Jens Stryger Larsen (Udinese), Jannik Vestergard (Southampton), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich), Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Thomas Delaney (Dortmund), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Mike Jensen (Rosenborg), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Anders Christiansen (Malmo), Christian Norgaard (Fiorentina), Martin Braithwaite (Middlesbrough), Andreas Cornelius (Bordeaux), Yuusuf Poulsen (Leipzig).
No surprise to see Gareth Bale dominating the front page of the Western Mail this morning.
The Wales and Real Madrid star was in superb form again last night, scoring a superb individual goal to take his international tally to 30 in the 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland.
Welsh football is waking up this morning to the realisation that a new and exciting era has definitely begun.
A comprehensive 4-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League was defined by the young players entrusted by manager Ryan Giggs to perform in front of a passionate Cardiff crowd, and they more than rose to the occasion.
Ethan Ampadu, David Brooks, Chris Mepham, Tyler Roberts, Matthew Smith and goalscorer Connor Roberts were amongst the new generation given an opportunity to impress on a memorable night in the capital, and didn't disappoint.
Meanwhile, established stars like Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and captain Ashley Williams led by example, and the squad now head to Denmark full of confidence for the next match in this new competition.
However, the challenge of the Danes in Aarhus on Sunday is likely to be more difficult than initially expected, as the contractual dispute between the DBU and its senior players has been put on hold.
"We can play the important Nations League match with the right national team and again focus on the sport," said DBU President Jesper Moller.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill cut a despondent figure when he addressed the press and media following the 4-1 defeat to Wales, but praised the performance of Ryan Giggs' side.
"We were well beaten in the game. Tonight we were missing some key players and we knew it was going to be difficult. There were more than a few mistakes. You can't give world-class players like Gareth Bale space like that, and we will learn from it. Having a world-class player at your disposal does help. But Wales played very well, and their young players played exceptionally well. We have to be more positive on the ball. This was a really tough evening for us."
Ryan Giggs' faith in youth was vindicated as his side claimed an impressive 4-1 win over the Republic of Ireland, and the manager was quick to praise the contribution of his young players in his post-match press conference.
"Overall, I was really pleased with the way we played. To score four goals in any game is special. Each player that I picked, I picked for a reason. I got a chance as a young player, age really doesn't matter to me. I had really good professionals in the dressing room that helped me, and we've got that here.
"We've got a really good balance of youth and experience. The bad news is that the players have set a standard that they have to maintain, but there's still a lot of things we could have done better. But we will enjoy this performance and result. I feel that we have got thirty players that can be in our first eleven, and that's what I want. I want to give young players a chance to see if they can handle it."
Here is the starting line-up for Wales against the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League this evening.
We'll be back with all the post-match reaction from both camps after the match. In the meantime, follow @Cymru for live updates from Cardiff throughout the match.
Captain Ashley Williams will lead Wales out against the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League tonight, and this week reflected on the injury he sustained against Mexico in Wales' last match.
Williams suffered a punctured lung during the 0-0 draw in the United States in May. “It was serious. At the time I didn’t see it like that, it might have been to do with the morphine! I just got on with it but i was in a lot of pain. It was all new to me and we were in a different country as well.
"That’s the most pain I’ve ever been in. It’s every breath with your ribs. I had to stay there for a while and then fly back over. It was a freakish one as well not like a dangerous tackle or anything. The medical guys are brilliant and the people who looked after me there and we got the procedure done quickly.
"It was worrying but more after the event. It could’ve been a lot worse and it makes you think a bit but you know every time you put the shirt on it’s a possibility.”
In contrast to their Irish counterparts, the Welsh newspapers are full of optimism ahead of Ryan Giggs' first competitive game as manager of the national team this evening.
A string of injuries and reports of internal disputes paint a negative picture in the Irish press this morning.
Manager Martin O'Neill finds himself without the services of a number of key players as they prepare to start their UEFA Nations League campaign against Wales in Cardiff, and there are few words of encouragement in the papers.
Frenchman Clement Turpin will referee tonight's UEFA Nations League match between Wales and the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The 36-year old refereed two group games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, taking charge of the fixtures between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia and Switzerland and Costa Rica. Turpin has also refereed two games in the French Ligue 1 this season, the most recent being a 2-1 win for Bordeaux over Monaco.
Midfielder Alan Browne has become the latest player to pull out of the Republic of Ireland squad through injury.
It has been a tough week for manager Martin O'Neill with a host of players withdrawing from his original squad. The Preston North End player suffered a calf injury during training and will play no part in the match in Cardiff on Thursday.
O'Neill: It is a very big challenge. We are not at full strength but I can't recall the last time we were. Gareth Bale is a world class player. He can change a game in an instant. We are really looking forward to the challenge and have prepared as well as we can. #COYBIG #WALIRL pic.twitter.com/TajLBqtYgH— FAIreland (@FAIreland) September 5, 2018
Denmark have been the talk of the international game over the last few days, but for all the wrong reasons.
The squad of players that reached the last 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup have been involved in a contractual dispute with the Danish FA, and as a result will not feature in the friendly against Slovakia this evening or in the UEFA Nations League match against Wales on Sunday.
Manager Ryan Giggs and captain Ashley Williams were both asked about the unusual situation at the press conference at Cardiff City Stadium this morning.
Giggs - “What sort of team we’ll face I don’t know. I don’t know the ins and outs so it’s hard for me to comment. It’s very unusual. They’re a top 10 team and they did well in the World Cup so it’s strange. You think it would’ve been sorted out by now. It’s not ideal but the problem they have is they have to put out some sort of team. What do they do? They’ve got a real dilemma and it’s unique."
Williams - “We just concentrate on ourselves and work on what we want to. We’ll try and focus on what the gaffer wants us to do. We won’t know much about them but it is what it is. I’ve never faced that before so you have to just get on with it."
The national anthem will once again be handed over the Red Wall on Thursday night!
Just like the last time we faced the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff, we'll start you off, before leaving you generate another incredible atmosphere.
WATCH: If you need a reminder, turn up the volume, and click play on the video below.
Captain Ashley Williams followed manager Ryan Giggs and spoke to the press and media at Cardiff City Stadium about the UEFA Nations League and the challenge of the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s exciting. We’ve all been here a lot of times. We’ve seen campaigns where they’ve started with excitement and nothing’s happened but the week can’t come quick enough. It means a bit more than the last games because of the competition we’re in.
“They are physical but it’s something we’re used to. Most games in the Premier League or Championship are quite physical. It’s not that different but you know it’ll be physical like it was last time. It’s just another game with British players and we’re used to it.”
On a stunning morning in the capital, manager Ryan Giggs addressed the assembled press and media to discuss a range of topics ahead of the UEFA Nations League fixtures against the Republic of Ireland (Thursday) and Denmark (Sunday).
Here are a few selected quotes from Giggs' press conference that followed a light training session at the Cardiff City Stadium.
“It’s a proud moment for me. I’m very excited, the lads have trained well and we also recognise it’s a tough game. In the last six competitive away games they’re unbeaten, so we know we’re up against a team that’ll make it difficult for us. I never really got nervous as a player. As a manger it’s different as there’s a lot going through your mind, but the preparation has been good. Everyone’s fit so there’s not much more i can ask for.
“I want that competitive edge in training. Competition is good. Football is all about getting balance right. You have to earn the right to play attacking football by winning your battles. Defending starts from the front. It’s getting a balance, but when you’ve got good players who want to express themselves, you tell them what they’re good at and you don’t restrict them."
Cardiff City Stadium is ready for the start of the UEFA Nations League.
Ryan Giggs' Wales squad will train at the stadium this morning ahead of Thursday's fixture against the Republic of Ireland.
Ryan Giggs only faced the Republic of Ireland once as a player, but suffered a 1-0 defeat in one of his final games for Wales as John Toshack's side lost their UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier at Croke Park in Dublin back in March 2007.
Stephen Ireland scored the only goal for Ireland in front of a crowd of over 72,500 fans, but there was hope for the future for Wales, as Giggs lined-up alongside a teenage Gareth Bale who was making just his fifth appearance for his country. Joe Ledley, who had recently turned 20, also started the match, and he and Bale are the only two players from that day that remain part of the current squad.
Ryan Giggs was keen to emphasise that Thursday's UEFA Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland will not be about revenge after a 1-0 defeat to Martin O'Neill's side in Cardiff last year ended Wales' World Cup qualification hopes.
However, while the victory booked the Republic of Ireland a play-off place, a comprehensive 5-1 defeat to Denmark made it an equally difficult summer for Ireland. “The lads would have been watching the World Cup deep down devastated and gutted that we weren’t there," explained defender Ciaran Clark this week. "It was gutting to get so close and miss out on it. We want to make sure we have a good campaign now and come the end of it, we’re at a major tournament.”
Although the defeat proved to be Chris Coleman's last competitive match as Wales manager, O'Neill himself believes there will be an added element to the game despite this being the start of a new era. "Wales might turn around and think that they have a point to prove against us," said O'Neill. "But if that is a motivation in itself, then I haven’t a problem with it. Obviously, international football at this moment is new for Ryan, but I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it, and I’m sure he is looking forward to it."
"It's an exciting format and it's good for the fans."— FA WALES (@FAWales) September 4, 2018
@GarethBale11 calls on #TheRedWall to give the squad the extra energy they need on the pitch as Wales take on the Republic of Ireland.
Tickets: https://t.co/IkAYuoFiyF#WALIRL #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/TlTp3V1h7y
Former Arsenal midfielder John Jensen will be at least one familiar name in the Danish ranks on Sunday after been named as temporary manager for the next two games.
With the Danes expected to name a team of lower league players following a contractual dispute with their regular squad, the 69-cap former international will take charge of the national team for the friendly against Slovakia and the UEFA Nations League match against Wales.
"When I say yes to help here, it's because I feel very strongly for the national team as an institution, and because I think the most important thing must be that the games will be played," said Jensen ."I just hope to get us through the two matches and that the parties find a solution as soon as possible."
David Brooks is relishing the opportunity to continue his football development under the guidance of one of his heroes.
"I'm a big Man Utd fan," said Brooks when asked about manager Ryan Giggs at the Wales team base this week. "He was a fantastic player, and he's near enough won every trophy under the sun. If he's got any advice for me I'll be glad to take it on board."
Brooks is one of a number of exciting young talents in Giggs' new-look Wales squad, and a cap against the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League on Thursday would finally end speculation over his international future, although Brooks insists that the matter has already been decided. "I won't be switching, even if I don't get on," the Bournemouth summer-signing confirmed.
"In the last couple of matches and training camps we've had, there's been an element of youth in there. People have got their chance. As a young player you look at it and know that if you're good enough you will get an opportunity, and that's great for Wales going forward."
James McClean has become the latest Republic of Ireland player to pull out of Martin O'Neill's squad after breaking his wrist during a training session earlier today.
The Irish Times report that McClean fell heavily on his wrist but could not confirm if any other players were involved. McClean scored the only goal of the game when the Republic of Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff last year, and the withdrawal of the Stoke City midfielder will be a big loss for O'Neill and his side.
Find out everything you need to know about the #NationsLeague ahead of Thursday's match against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.— FA WALES (@FAWales) September 4, 2018
Ticket info: https://t.co/nokBo7gpZ1#WALIRL #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/Czq2edgk9p
Defender James Chester believes there will be "a bit of bite and tension in the air" when Wales take on the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff on Thursday.
"It's slightly different to most international football as you do know the vast majority of players you're playing against," Chester explained. "The referees are perhaps a bit on edge knowing it's a Welsh and Irish thing. It could may be refereed in a slightly different way because they're not used to that sort of game. But it's a good game for us after our World Cup disappointment and something we're really excited for."
Wales are likely to face an unfamiliar Denmark side when the two teams meet in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday.
The Danish Football Association (DBU) and its players are currently involved in a dispute over commercial rights, and the lack of an agreement means that the team that takes to the field on Sunday is now likely to consist of lower league players. In addition, manager Age Hareide and assistant Jon Dahl Tomasson will not be in charge.
"It is a deeply regrettable situation we are in both for the team, fans and for all in Danish football,” explained DBU CEO Claus Bretton-Meyer in an official statement "We had hoped that the players would meet when we offered them the same fee, bonus, paid insurance and better flight, cook and treatment conditions. Now we are working to get the best possible players to play the two matches for Denmark.”
A 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland last year ended Wales' hopes of reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.
However, manager Ryan Giggs is adamant that his players will not be thinking about revenge when the two sides meet again in the UEFA Nations League on Thursday night.
"When you start thinking about stuff like that it can throw you off track," said Giggs. "It's part of my job if there's anything in their minds, get it out of your head. I understand, I was at home watching it on TV and was just as frustrated as anyone, but that's gone.
"We have new players and it's something you have to forget. It's part of football. You get bad defeats and sometimes you are unlucky. It was a long time ago. For me, it's a new game, and it's my job to make sure we perform as best we can on the night."
Midfielder Mark Pembridge made 54 appearances for Wales between 1991 and 2004, and the first of his six international goals proved to be the difference between Wales and the Republic of Ireland back in February 1992.
The away friendly match was the last time that Wales beat Ireland, and remains just the fifth victory in 15 games between the two nations stretching back to 1960. Terry Yorath was Wales manager for that match at the Royal Society Showground, and his starting line-up that day included Dean Saunders, the late Gary Speed, Neville Southall and captain Mark Hughes.
Current Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was named in Jack Charlton's midfield, but it was Pembridge who made headlines with his winning goal midway through the second half.
Gareth Bale's incredible overhead kick for Real Madrid against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final is one of the 10 nominees for FIFA's Puskus award, the prize given for goal of the season.
Bale has enjoyed an excellent start to the new La Liga season and joins up with Wales for the opening UEFA Nations League fixtures in superb form having scored three goals in the opening three games. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on 24th September.
Manager Martin O'Neill has named his Republic of Ireland squad for the upcoming UEFA Nations League match against Wales and international friendly against Poland.
Injuries have ruled out James McCarthy (leg), Robbie Brady (ankle), Scott Hogan (groin), Sean Maguire (hamstring) and Shane Long (foot), while Cardiff City loanee Harry Artur has not been included in the 26-man squad.
Goalkeepers: Colin Doyle (Hearts), Sean McDermott (Kristiansund BK), Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough).
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Richard Keogh (Derby County), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Kevin Long, Stephen Ward (Burnley), John Egan, Enda Stevens (Sheffield United).
Midfielders: Alan Judge (Brentford), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Shaun Williams (Millwall), David Meyler (Reading), Daryl Horgan (Hibernian), Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (Stoke City).
Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Ipswich Town*), Graham Burke, Callum Robinson (Preston North End), Aiden O'Brien (Millwall).
Wales welcome the Irish to Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday (6 September) before travelling to Aarhus where they play Denmark on Sunday (9 September). Regular updates will be provided here so be sure to visit this page regularly.
The new competition will change the landscape of international football in Europe, with highly competitive matches of extreme importance being played between September and November.
All 55 UEFA nations will compete across four separate leagues (A-D), which have been decided by the current coefficient ranking system.
Each league will has four groups. There is promotion and relegation between these leagues, and it will work in conjunction with qualification for the finals of UEFA EURO and the FIFA World Cup in order to streamline those particular qualifying competitions.
For example, Wales’ final position upon completion of the Nations League in November will determine their pot for the European Qualifiers group stage draw for UEFA EURO 2020 on 2 December.
The UEFA Nations League will work on a two-year cycle, with the overall competition winner being confirmed every odd year.
The addition of this new international competition will add a competitive edge and excitement, as the small groups of between three and four teams will ensure that each and every game matters. It also provides Wales with another qualification route for UEFA EURO 2020.
There will be an outright UEFA Nations League winner every two years from the four group winners of League A who will compete in the semi-finals and then the final.
The inaugural winner will be decided in 2019. Games will be played on a home and away basis with fixtures taking place between September and November this year.
The group stage of the European Qualifiers for EURO 2020 will then take place between March and November 2019.
The four Group B winners will be promoted to League A, and the four bottom teams will be relegated to League C ahead of the next UEFA Nations League competition in 2020.
Meanwhile, the top four-ranked League B teams that do not qualify for EURO 2020 will enter the play-offs, where one place at the finals will be on offer.
WALES UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES
- 06/09/18 - Republic of Ireland (Home) - Cardiff City Stadium - KO 19:45
- 09/09/18 - Denmark (Away) - Cares Park, Aarhus - KO 17:00
- 16/10/18 - Republic of Ireland (Away) - Aviva Stadium, Dublin - KO 19:45
- 16/11/18 - Denmark (Home) - Cardiff City Stadium - KO 19:45
WATCH: The UEFA Nations League is fully explained in the video below.