Reporter Notebook: Wales in perfect shape for 'winner-takes-all' clash


We’ve been here before. We’ve heard the phrase ‘winner takes all’, we know how big a deal it is to qualify for a major tournament.

In June 2022, Wales hosted Ukraine. The prize then a place at the World Cup in Qatar. Now it is Poland who’ll receive Welsh hospitality with a spot at the Euros in Germany this summer on the line. It’s another ‘winner-takes-all’ moment.

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Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes analyses Wales’ impressive 4-1 win against Finland, and looks ahead to their huge play-off final against Poland.

Wales and Poland are in good places coming into the match, their form is impressive and both come to Cardiff off the back of comprehensive play-off semi-final victories. Given Wales have the home advantage, though, is the onus on them to take the lead, to tactically take the initiative?

Not sure about that. Why?

Neco Williams celebrates after putting Wales 2-0 up against Finland
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Neco Williams celebrates after putting Wales 2-0 up against Finland

Because Wales love to counter-attack, they know they possess several players who are very quick – Neco Wiliams, Dan James, Brennan Johnson to name just three of them. And to counter, at times teams have to give up possession and allow the opposition to come on to you.

It worked a treat against Finland last Thursday, but even then Wales were utterly dominant in the second half, with Finland rarely enjoying any possession. I’m not sure Wales vs Poland will allow either side the luxury of control – it’s going to be a tight affair.

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Speaking after their 4-1 win over Finland in Cardiff, Wales manager Rob Page claims his side are happy to go toe-to-toe with anyone to qualify for the European Championships.

I’ve had a chat with a few journalists who cover Poland and have now arrived in Cardiff, and they are confident. They say their team has pace and know-how – and the experience not to get fazed by a partisan crowd that will be cheering on the team in red.

Robert Lewandowski surprisingly failed to score for Poland before he was substituted in the 70th minute
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Wales will need to keep Poland striker Robert Lewandowski quiet if they wish to progress on Tuesday

Frustrate and deny Wales the space to exploit their pace and they believe Poland have the edge in what is widely expected be a very close game. When you have games like this, it’s often one or two moments that decide the destiny of the match. One mistake, one lapse of concentration, one wonder goal.

Wales players celebrate with David Brooks after his early opening goal against Finland
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Wales players celebrate with David Brooks after his early opening goal against Finland

From a Welsh perspective, though, I can’t think of a better way for Rob Page’s team to go into this final. They’ve done everything asked of them, several young players with a smattering of experience have seen the side progress over the last six months with a hugely impressive victory over Croatia, a draw with Turkey – where even the Turks conceded they were second best – and a thumping of Finland.

A team without Gareth Bale and as yet not needing Aaron Ramsey is exciting fans and clearly growing in confidence. However, no one can accurately predict the result of this, it’s two good sides going at one another.

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Former Wales international Rob Earnshaw believes Rob Page’s side have a good chance of securing a spot at the Euros following their impressive 4-1 win over Finland.

For Wales and their red wall to be successful, it will require the requisite biting of nails, hugging of fellow fans and prayers to whoever, or whatever, so that one crucial mistake isn’t made by a Welsh player, or that wonder goal is slammed home by a player with a fire-breathing dragon on their chest.

What group will Wales be in at the Euros if they win?

Wales will be in Group D at Euro 2024 if they can beat Poland. That would put them up against France, Netherlands and Austria.

The winner of play-off Path B – Ukraine or Iceland – will go into Group E, and face Belgium, Slovakia and Romania at the Euros.

And the winner of play-off Path C – Georgia or Greece – have been drawn to go into Group F, with Portugal, Turkey and Czech Republic.

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Rob Page was not willing to tempt fate and let Wales defender Connor Roberts shave off his match-winning facial hair.

What are the Euro 2024 groups?

Group A – Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland

Group B – Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

Group C – Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

Group D – Wales or Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France

Group E – Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine or Iceland

Group F – Turkey, Georgia or Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic

Is this a new generation of Wales players coming through?
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Is this a new generation of Wales players coming through?

What is the Euro 2024 schedule and format?

The top two teams from each of the six final tournament groups will proceed to the round of 16, along with the four best third-placed finishers.

Remaining qualifying dates
March 26, 2024: Play-off finals

Final tournament

June 14, 2024: Euro 2024 opening game, Munich Football Arena (Allianz Arena)
June 30 – July 2: Round of 16
July 5-6: Quarter-finals
July 9-10: Semi-finals
July 14: Euro 2024 final, Olympiastadion Berlin



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