Cymru manager Rob Page accepts the level of expectation has risen as he spoke to the media in Frankfurt following the draw for EURO 2024 qualifying which placed his side in Group D alongside Croatia, Armenia, Turkey and Latvia.
“I think, overall, we’ve got to be quite pleased with the group,” said Page to UEFA. “Our expectation level has risen because of that success that we’ve had so we’ll be ready for it. We’ve proven time and time again that we can go to tough places, get a result and find a way to win. Some of the opposition will be tough away from home, but we’ve proven in the past that we’re capable of doing it.”
Cymru were paired against Croatia during the successful EURO 2020 qualifying campaign, earning a point with a 1-1 draw in Cardiff. Page and his squad then came up against Turkey at the finals and put in their best performance of the tournament in the 2-0 group stage victory in Baku through goals from Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts. However, it is over 20 years since Cymru last played against Armenia, while the one and only previous fixture against Latvia took place in August 2004.
OPPONENTS IN PROFILE
FIFA World Ranking: 12
Best EURO finish: Quarter-finals (1996 & 2008)
Manager – Zlatko Dalić
The 55-year old took charge of the Croatian national team in 2017 after managing clubs in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. A defensive midfielder during his playing career which included three separate spells at Hajduk Split, Dalić guided Croatia to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.
One to Watch – Luka Modrić
The all-time record-appearance holder and the star man of this Croatian team despite turning 37 last month. The Real Madrid midfielder has won the UEFA Champions League on five occasions and has played over 150 games for the national team since making his debut back in March 2006.
Random fact – Looking Smart
The origins of the necktie trace back to Croatia in the 1600’s. The country even celebrates International Necktie Day every year on 18 October since it was officially recognised in 2008.
FIFA World Ranking: 93
Best EURO finish: Never qualified for EURO finals.
Manager – Dmitri Gunko
Recently appointed as national team manager, the former Spartak Moscow coach switched to Armenia in 2020 to take charge of Khimki, Noah, Ararat-Armenia and then Urartu. After coming through the youth ranks at Spartak Moscow, the former defender spent his playing career in the Russian domestic game.
One to Watch – Tigran Barseghyan
The 29-year old winger currently plays for Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava having previously played his club football in Armenia, North Macedonia and Kazakhstan. Made his senior international debut for Armenia in 2016 and has become a consistent goalscorer for the national team.
Random fact – Ye Olde Yerevan
The Armenian capital city of Yerevan is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world after it was founded in 782 BC by King Argishti, some 30 years before brothers Romulus and Remus founded Rome.
FIFA World Ranking: 45
Best EURO finish: Semi-finals (2008)
Manager – Stefan Kuntz
The former Germany striker turns 60 at the end of the month and took charge of the Turkish national team in September 2021 following the last EURO finals. This is his highest-profile appointment having previously coached the Germany U21 team between 2016 and 2021 after spells in the lower levels of the German game.
One to Watch – Hakan Çalhanoğlu
A talented attacking midfielder who made headlines in the summer of 2021 when he moved AC Milan to Inter Milan. The current captain of Turkey, Çalhanoğlu has represented his country at every level from U16’s to the senior team and made his senior debut in 2013.
Random fact – Nuts enough
Turkey supplies around 75% of the world’s hazelnuts as the climate provides perfect growing conditions.
FIFA World Ranking: 134
Best EURO finish: Group stage (2004)
Manager – Dainis Kazakevičs
Appointed manager of FK Jelgava at the age of just 20 in 2001, Kazakevičs spent more than a decade at the club before being appointed manager of the Latvian U21 team in 2013. In 2020, Kazakevičs moved up to become manager of the national team.
One to Watch – Kristers Tobers
Still only 21, Tobers has played more than 20 games for the national team as a versatile defensive midfielder. Plays his club football in Poland with Lechia Gdańsk having initially joined the club on-loan from Latvian side FK Liepāja/Mogo.
Random fact – Can’t see the wood for the trees
More than half of Latvia’s land area is covered by woodland.