FC CYMRU – EURO EDITION
FC CYMRU – EURO EDITION
On warm March afternoon in 2019, Daniel James scored his first international goal on what was his first competitive appearance for his country inside the opening few minutes of the match. Despite the positive start to the group, a double June defeat away to Croatia and Hungary left Cymru having to make up lost ground on their rivals, leaving manager Ryan Giggs frustrated.
"I know there are still a lot of points but we have made it really difficult for ourselves," said Giggs after the two defeats. "You look at the games, we still had enough chances to win the games. In our defence it is tough - not enough of our players were at peak fitness. But we have to probably win nearly every game now. We are probably relying on teams around us to drop points, which they will do because it is competitive. In both games you have to take your chances at this level. If you don't, this is what happens. Soft goals we gave away in both games. Again, you can't do that as this level. We pride ourselves on our defending as a team, making sure that first of all we are hard to beat.”
Gareth Bale was the hero as he scored the late winner in what was a vital 2-1 win over Azerbaijan in September 2019, while the emergence of striker Kieffer Moore would be crucial as he scored in the 1-1 draw away to Slovakia the following month. Another 1-1 draw followed in Cardiff a few days later as World Cup finalists Croatia were held by an equaliser from Bale just before half-time. Cymru would need to register two wins in their final two games if automatic qualification was to be achieved, and the side were boosted by the return of midfielder Aaron Ramsey for the fixtures against Azerbaijan and Hungary.
Despite the pressure to get the right result, goals from Harry Wilson and Moore in the opening half ensured that Cymru would claim a comfortable 2-0 win against Azerbaijan in Baku. "Of course, it's been an up and down campaign, but the most important thing now is that we haven't lost since Hungary and the confidence is there,” said Bale. “The youngsters have come in and done really well, we've got a great mix of youth and experience. Qualifying would be right up there for me, it was massive last time, and to do it again might be even more impressive.”
An incredible November night in Cardiff followed as Ramsey scored twice as Cymru defeated Hungary to book their place at EURO 2020. “It's a special, special night for Wales,” said Giggs after the match. “The lads never gave up after the results in the summer. There was no room for error, and the quality that the lads have shown, they deserve it. We've missed Aaron [Ramsey], but players who can make the difference don't grow on trees. It couldn't have worked out better. His composure and quality on the ball, he made the difference. It's right up there as one of the greatest nights of my life.”