Ryan Giggs urges Wales to seal Nations League promotion and Euro 2020 boost

• Victory over Denmark would move Wales up to Group A
• Win would also help chances of qualifying for Euro 2020

Ryan Giggs has likened Friday night’s Nations League game against Denmark to a cup final and urged his players to secure the win that would put Wales within 180 minutes of qualifying for Euro 2020 and enable them to be “among the big boys” in Group A when this tournament starts again in two years’ time.

With six points from three matches, Wales know victory at Cardiff City Stadium would put them in an unassailable position in their group, giving them a welcome insurance policy when it comes to trying to reach the next European Championship finals. Should Wales fail to qualify for Euro 2020 through the traditional format, they would go into a two-leg play-off for a finals place by virtue of the fact they topped their Nations League group.

With promotion to Group A – which comes with the prospect of fixtures against some of Europe’s strongest nations – also at stake, Giggs spoke about an international match in November in a way that would have been unthinkable in the past unless it was a crucial qualifier for a major tournament.

Thursday 15 November

League A, Group 2: Belgium 2-0 Iceland
A4: Croatia 3-2 Spain
B3: Austria 0-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina
C2: Hungary 2-0 Estonia, Greece 1-0 Finland
D1: Kazakhstan 1-1 Latvia, Andorra 1-1 Georgia
D2: Luxembourg 0-2 Belarus, San Marino 0-1 Moldova

Friday 16 November

League A, Group 1: Netherlands 2-0 France
B1: Slovakia 4-1 Ukraine
B4: Wales 1-2 Denmark
C3: Cyprus 1-1 Bulgaria, Slovenia 1-1 Norway
D4: Gibraltar 2-6 Armenia, Liechtenstein 0-2 FYR Macedonia

Saturday 17 November

League A, Group 3: Italy 0-0 Portugal
B2: Turkey 0-1 Sweden
C1: Albania 0-4 Scotland
C4: Serbia 2-1 Montenegro, Romania 3-0 Lithuania
D3: Azerbaijan 2-0 Faroe Islands, Malta 0-5 Kosovo 

Sunday 18 November

League A, Group 2: Switzerland 5-2 Belgium
A4: England 2-1 Croatia 
B3: Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria 
C2: Hungary 2-0 Finland, Greece 0-1 Estonia
D2: San Marino 0-2 Belarus, Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg 

Monday 19 November

League A, Group 1: Germany 2-2 Netherlands
B1: Czech Republic 1-0 Slovakia
B4: Denmark 0-0 Republic of Ireland
C3: Cyprus 0-2 Norway, Bulgaria 1-1 Slovenia
D1: Georgia 2-1 Kazakhstan, Andorra 0-0 Latvia
D4: FYR Macedonia 4-0 Gibraltar, Liechtenstein 2-2 Armenia

Tuesday 20 November

League A, Group 3: Portugal 1-1 Poland
B2: Sweden 2-0 Russia
C1: Scotland 3-2 Israel
C4: Serbia 4-1 Lithuania, Montenegro 0-1 Romania
D3: Malta 1-1 Faroe Islands, Kosovo 4-0 Azerbaijan

Ups and downs so far

League A
Finals: Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, England
Relegated: Germany, Iceland, Poland, Croatia

League B
Promoted: Ukraine, Sweden, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark
Relegated: Slovakia, Turkey, N Ireland, Rep of Ireland

League C
Promoted: Scotland, Finland, Norway, Serbia
Relegated: Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Cyprus

League D
Promoted: Georgia, Belarus, Kosovo, Macedonia

The public also seem to have bought into the sense of occasion, with a sellout crowd of around 33,000 expected. “There’s lots of incentives to top the group,” the Wales manager said. “First of all to win a really competitive group would be great, and then you get a second bite of the cherry with regards to qualifying for the Euros if you don’t qualify automatically – and it has an effect on the seedings come the Euro [2020] draw as well.

“And I think for everyone – coaching staff, the players, the fans – to know you’re going into Group A and that the next time the Nations League comes around you’re going to be among the big boys, it would great, because you want to play and test yourself against the best.”

Wales will have their work cut out against Denmark, who host the Republic of Ireland in their final Nations League game on Monday. Although Gareth Bale being fit has given Giggs and his players a boost, Denmark have a formidable record. They have lost only twice in 23 matches, on penalties against Croatia at the World Cup and, farcically, against Slovakia in September when a dispute between the Danish football association and its players over commercial rights meant they were forced to field a salesman and a student in a makeshift XI.

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Denmark’s comfortable 2-0 win over Wales a few days later, with a full-strength lineup, was a far better reflection of Age Hareide’s team and featured another hugely influential performance from their talisman. Christian Eriksen got both goals, meaning that he has scored 15 and set up five in his last 18 appearances for his country.

“A fantastic player,” Giggs said. “He was the difference in Aarhus. We’ll have to be aware of his qualities. But it’s one thing setting out a plan to stop him, it’s another actually doing it. It’s very difficult, just like it will be for Denmark to stop our quality players who can hurt them. But without a doubt, [Eriksen’s] up there with one of the top Premier League performers. He’s done that for a consistent amount of time, both scoring goals and making goals. We’ll be up against it trying to stop him but we’ll do our best.”


Stuart James

The GuardianTramp

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