Welsh Dragons target historic win to keep Euros dream alive

Wales play Finland in a European play-off semi final on Thursday evening

NEITHER side wanted to be here. A European campaign should never begin by hoping you make a play-off final rather than gain automatic qualification for a tournament.

However, now that Wales and Finland find themselves vying for a spot in the Euro qualification final, both want to try and make the best of their situation.

There are not many times we’ve gone into a big game in Cardiff and not delivered

David Edwards, former Welsh midfielder

To qualify now, Wales would have to do something they have never managed before – win a European play-off qualifier.

The winner of Thursday’s match at Cardiff City stadium will play either Poland or Estonia on March 26 for a place in Group D of the Euros in Germany this summer.

If Wales were to qualify for the Euros, it would be their fourth major tournament in the last five, and perhaps provide hope that the post-Bale era can carry on the momentum that the last decade of Welsh football has generated.

Finland equaled their best ever result, winning six of their 10 qualifiers, while Wales won just three of theirs.

Former Wales midfielder, from the darker, pre-golden age Welsh team, David Edwards, thinks the home advantage will be enough of a push for the Dragons.

“There are not many times we’ve gone into a big game in Cardiff and not delivered,” he said.

Strangely, outside of the home nations there are only four teams in the world Wales have come up against more times in their history than Finland.

An old foe then, though this is undoubtedly the most important of those 16 meetings.

Wales and Finland have met nine times since the turn of the century, taking three wins apiece and three draws from the encounters.

Although Wales have won the last two competitive fixtures, beating the Fins 1-0 in Helsinki and then 3-1 at the Millennium Stadium in the 2020 Nations League.

On top of that, it was announced yesterday that Finland’s experienced midfielder Robert Taylor will miss the game. Middlesborough striker Marcus Forss is also a doubt, having been taken off after 19 minutes against Blackburn at the weekend.

Wales have included Aaron Ramsey in their squad, despite the Welsh captain failing to start a match in six months after a string of injuries.

Focusing on the positives, Wales manager Rob Page said in a press conference last week: “The majority of our squad are out playing football and playing well.”

On paper, Wales are playing at home, against a team with key injuries who sit 31 places below them in the international rankings, which makes this game sound almost routine.

International football isn’t played on paper though.

  • Cardiff City Stadium, March 21: Kick-off: 7.45pm.