Following a historic night where Cymru confirmed promotion to the UEFA Nations League group A, we look at the key talking points from the 3-1 win over Finland.
Ch… Ch… Changes
Three changes were made to the side that beat the Republic of Ireland on Sunday. Rob Page kept the formation that bought Cymru success and with the stalwart Ben Davies missing, James Lawrence was slotted into the same position in the back three. Meanwhile, Connor Roberts and Harry Wilson were brought in in place of Neco Williams and David Brooks. In his pre-match interviews, Page cited a slight knock for Neco Williams on Sunday as the reason for his change. Despite his current run of form, David Brooks was on the bench to manage his game time as part of his return from injury.
A flowing front-line
For the second match running, it was obvious that the front three were set up to be interchangeable in their positions. The front three for the majority of the match; Gareth Bale, Dan James and Harry Wilson, all performed their roles superbly and their constant movement caused several headaches for the Finland defence. It became apparent that Finland were anticipating a threat; after playing the majority of their UEFA Nations League game with two centre backs, they decided to change formation and include a third centre back for the Cymru match.
However, a cleverly timed run from Wilson forced Jere Uronen into conceding the early foul which resulted in his red card, whilst another run on the half hour mark ended with Wilson opening the scoring after a well worked move between the midfield and front three.
Both Gareth Bale and Dan James were back to their old Cymru best, much to the delight of the Red Wall watching from home. Dan James strengthened his reputation for scoring great goals at the Cardiff City Stadium with a thunderous rocket from thirty yards out early in the second half.
A clean sheet record
Despite conceding their first and only goal in the UEFA Nations League campaign, Cymru managed to go 774 minutes between conceding competitive goals. The previous record was held by Mike England’s side in 1980-1981, who went 722 minutes without conceding a goal. Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham and Rhys Norrington-Davies were part of the defensive effort tonight, and have progressed tremendously since playing alongside each other in 2017 for the Under 21s.
Cymru will now join Europe’s top table after topping Group B4 with seven wins and one draw. The next campaign will take place in 2022 and Cymru could face the likes of France, Germany and Spain in some mouth watering fixtures for the Red Wall.
As well as the promotion, topping the group also helps the cause in terms of FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification. If three of the UEFA Nations League group A winners (France, Spain, Belgium, Italy) manage to progress in the FIFA World Cup qualifying round, Cymru will be guaranteed a play-off spot. The qualifying round draw will take place on Monday 7 December in a virtual event hosted from Zurich, Switzerland.