IN a high-stakes clash at the Cardiff City Stadium, Cymru is set to host Turkey in their final Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday. Rob Page’s side finds themselves in a precarious position, requiring a victory against Turkey and a hope that Croatia does not secure a win against Armenia to clinch automatic qualification for the European Championship and avoid the play-offs in March.
The rollercoaster journey for Cymru took an unexpected turn with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Armenia last Saturday, relinquishing control of their destiny. Croatia capitalized on this slip by securing a crucial 2-0 victory in Latvia, putting them in pole position for the second spot behind Turkey.
For Cymru, the equation is clear-cut: nothing less than a triumph over Turkey will suffice, with prayers for Croatia to stumble in their final encounter. Armenia, the thorn in Cymru’s side in this group, now holds the key to Cymru’s qualification hopes, needing to upset the odds against the 95th-ranked team in the world.
Amidst the disappointment of the draw in Armenia, there was a silver lining for Cymru. Other results across Europe secured a play-off spot for the Welsh team. Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic must miss out on automatic qualification for Cymru to endure the agony of missing the play-offs. As Italy and the Czech Republic await their fate, Netherlands’ 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Kosovo ensured Cymru a play-off safety net.
Cymru now pins its hopes on Italy and the Czech Republic confirming their places in Euro 2024, paving the way for a potential home play-off semi-final in March.
The recent form of the Cymru team adds an extra layer of unpredictability to the crucial encounter. October witnessed a stellar performance against Croatia, the World Cup semi-finalists, as Cymru emerged victorious with a 2-1 scoreline in Cardiff. However, November brought unexpected adversity, as an early goal from Armenia left Cymru disjointed and fortunate not to suffer defeat to a team ranked 67 places below them in FIFA’s world order.
Boss Rob Page faces the challenge of reigniting the spark and fluency that dismantled Croatia while dispelling the anxiety that haunted them in Armenia.
Defensive concerns loom for Cymru, with Chris Mepham suspended after accumulating his third booking in the campaign. Tom Lockyer, who has experienced a rollercoaster of emotions over the last six months, could step in to join Joe Rodon and skipper Ben Davies in Cymru’s three-man central defence against Turkey.
In the attacking department, Tottenham’s Brennan Johnson might see a return despite a lacklustre performance off the bench in Armenia.
Turkey, on the other hand, is resurging after missing out on the 2022 World Cup and underwhelming performances in the last two European Championships. The appointment of Vincenzo Montella as head coach during Euro 2024 qualification has been instrumental in Turkey’s resurgence, winning five out of seven games and securing a top-two spot last month.
The Turkish side showcased their confidence with a 3-2 friendly victory over Germany in Berlin on Saturday, underlining their attacking prowess. Real Madrid’s Arda Guler and Juventus’ Kenan Yildiz, both 18-year-old attacking midfielders, are touted as two of the brightest prospects in European football. Guler, who scored in spectacular fashion against Cymru in June, poses a significant threat.
As the anticipation builds for the do-or-die showdown in Cardiff, the fate of Welsh football hangs in the balance. The Cardiff City Stadium is set to witness a gripping battle as Cymru seeks to defy the odds and secure a spot in Euro 2024.