Wales v Denmark: Pre-match press conference with Giggs and Williams

Ryan Giggs and Ashley Williams speak ahead of the vital Wales v Denmark clash on Friday night at the Cardiff City Stadium.

RYAN GIGGS

Facing Denmark:

“You prepare every game and you try to do it the right way.

“There’s a bit more edge, more pace, added concentration for this match. You want all the players to affect the game, whether that’s starting or coming from the bench.

“You recognise that Denmark have a good manager and a good set of players. But we want to concentrate on our strengths and not worry too much about the opposition.”

“I was more unhappy about the result last time because we were definitely in the game up until the penalty.

“Looking back, we caused them problems. Overall, I wasn’t too down about the performance, but we will need to play better tomorrow.”

“We’ve got across to the players what we want to get from the game.

“We gave them as much information as we could at the start of the week. These last couple of days it’s more relaxed and now we just want the players to go out there and express themselves.”

Christian Eriksen:

“He’s a fantastic player who was the difference over in Aarhus.

We are aware of his qualities, we have a plan to stop him but doing it will be key. He is the best player for Denmark without a shadow of a doubt.

“We have our qualities as well, but Eriksen is up there with the top Premier League performers.”

The possibility of winning the group:

“I think for everyone, the coaching staff, the players, fans – to be promoted to League A, you know next time we will be amongst the big boys in the draw. We want to test ourselves with the best.”

“There are lots of incentives for us to top the group. To finish first would be great because there’s a second bite of the cherry to qualify for EURO 2020 and our seeding overall gets pushed higher as well.

“It’s in our hands, but it’s not going to be easy because we’re up against a top class side.

“They are going to be tough to beat and they are undoubtedly a very good team.”

Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and any injuries:

“Gareth is good, he arrived a little bit later than the rest of the group, but he’s looking fine and ready this week.

“We had to give him a different program at the beginning of the week, but he is fine for tomorrow.”

“There aren’t any injury doubts, but it’s not ideal having withdrawals [Chris Mepham].

“George Thomas is not in the squad due to injury, and he will be 50/50 for Albania. Everyone else is fine.”

“Aaron is a quality player, he’s played enough this season, albeit in deeper roles.

“He has had enough games, just like Gareth Bale, he is fine.”

Being back at the Cardiff City Stadium:

“The players probably know more than me about the experiences here.

“We had a good result and performance last time against the Republic of Ireland, but it wasn’t full.

“With what’s at stake – we will need the crowd’s help to win the game.”

ASHLEY WILLIAMS

A “cup final” against Denmark:

“It feels a little bit like a final because we both want to win the group and we know what’s at stake if we do we win.

“We have a really good balance throughout the squad and the young players stand up like men.

“With the young players, they have valuable experience for the next set of games. We are in a good position now with one game left.”

“I think Eriksen is the obvious star of the Danish team, but they have a very good set of players throughout.

“It’ll be something that we will think about throughout the game for sure.”

“We need to play better than we did in the last game against them. Being at home gives us an extra bonus; we have a clear game plan with how to win this time.

“We’ve worked hard to get here and we want to finish it off properly and win the group.”

Playing at the Cardiff City Stadium:

“We are looking forward to it – a Friday night in Cardiff is always a special occasion under the lights. Hopefully, we can repay the fans with a win.

We have had a great relationship with the fans for years now and they have taken to the change of team and manager. Everyone seems to be enjoying it and long may it continue.”

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey:

“Gareth is sharp and ready to go. He’s had a good week, he’s happy around the camp and he doesn’t have any complaints.

“There will be two world-class players on show [Bale and Eriksen], we understand how good he is and Denmark will as well.”

“For us, Ramsey is one of the most important players for the team. He gives us something a little bit different, he is a leader and essential for us.

“We obviously want all of our most experienced players on the field at all times.

“A lot of big teams will be interested in him, I haven’t spoken to him about it [being linked with Bayern Munich], but it’s not surprising with the qualities he possesses.”

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest updates on Welsh football.

Read more:
• Wales Watch: Gwion Edwards, Hal Robson-Kanu and Joel Lynch among the goals
• Ryan Giggs speaks at the squad announcement ahead of Denmark and Albania
• Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the highlight of the weekend 

Ryan Giggs speaks at the squad announcement ahead of Denmark and Albania

Ryan Giggs announced his squad for the final Nations League clash against Denmark and an away friendly in Albania to finish 2018. The biggest surprise was the call-up of the unknown defender, James Lawrence. Neil Taylor returns to the squad, as does Dan James and Tom Lockyer.

Who is James Lawrence?

“We were made aware of him over the last six months or so. He’s played the majority of his career abroad.

“Albert [Stuivenberg] has watched him a couple of times, I’m looking to see him up close in training.”

“He fits the profile of what I want to play, he’s good with the ball at his feet. He’s playing regular football and fits exactly how we want to play.”

“His grandmother is from Haverfordwest, that’s how he qualifies for Wales.

“Someone at the Welsh FA made us aware of him, we will always check them out and see if they’re good enough.”

Chris Gunter potentially winning record caps this month:

“When he does get there [93 caps] and beats the record, it’ll be a fantastic achievement. He is someone who deserves all the plaudits he gets.

“He’s been brilliant to have around the squad, a good pro and is ready to be called upon like he did against Ireland. He’s a valuable member.”

“There’s great competition for places – during the week in training; it’s what I had as a player and we have that in our camp at the moment.

“It will be on my mind for Chris to break the record against Albania, but we have to look at the overall picture. Whether it will be in November or March we will have to wait and see.”

Neil Taylor’s return:

“Taylor has been unlucky for the past few squads, I know him and have played with him.

“He’s a popular member of the squad and playing regular football for Aston Villa. It gives Ben Davies a chance to have a rest over that period [because of his suspension].”

“Ben was disappointed not to be involved with Albania, but there’s a chance for him to take part in light training with Tottenham and get some rest.

“He’s played constantly since the summer, so it will be good for him to have a break.”

“Paul Dummett and Neil Taylor are very good replacement players for us to have when Ben is not available.

“Paul would have played in the last set of matches, it’s a shame he had to pull out because of his injury.”

Tough time for Gareth Bale in Spain:

“I’ve not seen many of the Real Madrid games this season, but we’re talking about a world-class player who never lets his country down. Hopefully, he’ll be meeting with us on Sunday.”

“He doesn’t need extra help, he’s been at Madrid for 5 years, I had stick at times at Man Utd. That’s something Gareth is used to dealing with.”

“He can’t wait to join up with the lads and be a part of the game. He’s an experienced player, he’s been there and experienced most things as a player.”

Dan James’ excellent form and embedding young players:

“He’s on fire at the moment and he’s someone who has got genuine pace. He’s exciting and he could start or act as an impact sub.

“We had him in the training camp before Mexico, he was unlucky to not travel to LA, but it will be good to have him with us now.”

“You always want players joining the squad who are playing regularly, especially forward players; if they’re confident and doing well it can make the difference.”

“It’s important to get the balance of the squad right [with youth and experience]. Exposing the younger players to play against Ireland in Dublin and Spain at home will hopefully stand us in good stead.”

“You saw with Matt Smith who made the mistake early on, he was helped by the more experienced players through the game.”

Matt Smith potentially missing Albania for a club game:

“That’s something we have to monitor in the next week or so.

“It’s a juggling act because we have a massive game on the Friday against Denmark and he’s a huge part of our squad.”

“We’ll have dialogue with Matty and the club and see how it goes.”

A chance to win the Nations League group v Denmark:

“I already knew they were a very good team, but we were in the game up until the penalty.

“It’ll be tough for us and Denmark, but we’re back at the CCS with a great atmosphere. It’s a really important game for us because we have a chance to win the group.

“I’m looking forward to it, as are the players to make it as difficult as possible for Denmark.”

“We are looking for the players to perform, it is a cup final – if we win, we top the group. There’s another chance for the Euro’s, we’ll be in Pot A and there’ll be financial rewards as well.”

“I’ve really enjoyed the Nations League, the fans have as well because it’s been really competitive.

“Like I’ve said, it gives us a big opportunity to win things if we win this game.”

Follow the blog on Twitter to receive the latest updates on Welsh football.

Read more:
• Wales Watch: James Chester’s heroics were the highlight of the weekend
• The Welsh Wingers are on fire 
• Doidge opens his account for Bolton 

James Chester: “I think this is a time that’s only going to be exciting”

Aston Villa captain and Wales defender, James Chester spoke with me this week ahead of the clashes with Rep. of Ireland and Denmark. 

He talks about the previous Ireland encounter, the new era under Ryan Giggs and his defensive partner, Ashley Williams. He also mentions the impromptus return of Paul Dummett.

Continue reading “James Chester: “I think this is a time that’s only going to be exciting””

Rep. of Ireland pre-match press conference with Ryan Giggs & Ashley Williams

I attended the pre-match press conference this afternoon ahead of the game against the Rep of Ireland. Ryan Giggs and Ashley Williams answered questions on tomorrow evening’s match, the upcoming Denmark game on Sunday, playing in Cardiff again and more.

Continue reading “Rep. of Ireland pre-match press conference with Ryan Giggs & Ashley Williams”

Ben Davies on the Nations League matches & Dummett’s welcome back

Wales & Tottenham Hotspur defender, Ben Davies spoke with me ahead of the first set of competitive international matches this month, against Rep. of Ireland & Denmark.

He gives a brief insight into Danish domestic football, following the news that Denmark will not field a full strength side. He also talks about Paul Dummett’s return and the new crop of youngsters fighting for places.

Continue reading “Ben Davies on the Nations League matches & Dummett’s welcome back”

David Brooks: “I won’t be putting on an England shirt again”

I spoke with David Brooks on Monday and got his thoughts on the upcoming Nations League matches, new life in Bournemouth and his previous England youth caps. 

Continue reading “David Brooks: “I won’t be putting on an England shirt again””

The UEFA Nations League explained

Many have been left with confusion as to what the Nations League offers and what happens if we win/lose our games. I will explain all in this article as clearly and as briefly as possible.

  1. There are 55 teams split into Leagues A & B (12 teams each), League C (15 teams) and League D (16 teams). Wales are currently in League B, Group 4.
  2. In League A, the four group winners qualify to play in the Nations League Finals (two semi-finals and one final) in June 2019. The winner is declared UEFA Nations League Champion. (We don’t need to worry too much about this for now).
  3. As well as this, there are play offs for the group winners of League’s A, B, C & D in the same format (two semi-finals and a final). The winner of each qualifies for EURO 2020.
  4. These games will take place in March 2020, after Euro 2020 qualifying is completed in November 2019. The host of the final will be chosen between two of the semi-final pairings for each League.
  5. If the group winner has already qualified for EURO 2020 by means of regular qualification as we know it (starting in March 2019), they will be replaced by the following means (working from League D to A):
  • If the league has a group winner selected for the play-offs, the next best team in the overall ranking from a lower league will be selected.
  • If the league has no group winner available, the best team in the overall ranking in the same group will be selected.

Each group winner of League’s B, C & D get promoted to the league above, whilst finishing bottom of a group in League’s A, B & C results in relegation to the league below. This will only take action for the next “season” of Nations League matches, beginning in September 2020.

So to sum up, even if we fail to qualify for EURO 2020 by regular means of qualifying (March-November 2019), we still have a chance to qualify via the Nations League play-offs, by finishing top of the group ahead of Ireland and Denmark.
Or even finishing second with a high points total would see us compete for the play-offs in League A instead of League B (the likelihood being the vast majority of teams in Group A would have already qualified for EURO 2020). There are no play off matches through the normal means of qualification anymore, only via the Nations League. 

There will be 10 groups of 5 or 6 teams in EURO 2020 qualifying, with the top 2 teams of each group automatically progressing to the tournament finals, taking 20/24 places. The 4 remaining places will be awarded to the winners of the Nations League play offs for League’s A, B, C & D.

To finish with a few examples:

Example 1:

Let’s imagine we won our Nations League group by winning all games in September, October and November, ending with 12 points.

But then we end up finishing 3rd in EURO 2020 qualifying, missing out on standard qualification.

We would then enter the Nations League play offs (March 2020) to play one and/or two of the following teams from League B in the semi-final & final to qualify for EURO 2020 –
Austria, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Russia, Rep. of Ireland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey or Ukraine.

There is a small possibility that if 8 of the above teams have already qualified, we would be in contention of playing the next best ranked team from League C (that did not win their group and did not qualify for EURO 2020) – Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Scotland or Slovenia.


Example 2:

This time we finish 2nd in our Nations League group with 9 points, and Denmark/Ireland finish top by goals scored. (9 points is more than likely enough to be the next best ranked team in League B).

Again, we end up missing out on EURO 2020 qualifying, so fingers crossed lots of teams in League A have already qualified, therefore giving us a chance of the play offs for League A instead of League B.

Let’s say Belgium won their Nations League A group and already qualified for EURO 2020, leaving the next best ranked team from League B to replace them. We would enter the Nations League play offs (March 2020) to play 2 out of 3 teams from League A that have not already qualified –
(Belgium), Croatia, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain or Switzerland.


Prize Money

League participation fee Group winners
League A €1.5m €1.5m
League B €1m €1m
League C €750k €750k
League D €500k €500k
Nations League Finals (League A only)
Winner €4.5m
Runners-up €3.5m
Third place €2.5m
Fourth place €1.5m

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