Daniel James insists Wales can still qualify for Euro 2024
Daniel James insists Wales have not given up hope of automatic Euro 2024 qualification despite the blow of Turkey beating Croatia on Thursday.
Turkey’s shock 1-0 win in Osijek has left Wales with a mammoth task to claim a top-two place in Group D.
Wales realistically need to win their final three group games – starting against Croatia in Cardiff on Sunday – to secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Euro finals and avoid going into the play-offs in March.
“The players have spoken a little bit about it (the Turkey result) but not too much,” James told the PA news agency.
“You always hope results go your way, but you can’t concentrate on hoping other teams lose.
“We’ve gone into every game believing that we can win and it (qualification) is still in our hands.
“Croatia lost the other night but they’re a great team that’s been to the semis and finals of World Cups. You can’t underestimate them at all.
“We had a start in this group that wasn’t up to our standards, but we trust ourselves to go into this game with heads held high.”
Although James points out that he is “no big verbal leader” almost as quickly as he bursts down the pitch, the 25-year-old winger now has senior status within Rob Page’s squad.
James won his 46th cap in the 4-0 friendly victory against Gibraltar on Wednesday after coming on as an early substitute for the injured Wes Burns.
He made two goals and hit the post with a ferocious shot from outside the box to build on his fine early-season form at Leeds.
James, speaking at the Wales training camp to celebrate the wave of free McDonald’s Fun Football sessions in the country this autumn, said: “I still feel that age of 19 or 20 when I first came into the set-up.
“But I do feel like one of the senior boys now. The way we sit in the dining room I’m at a more senior table.
“You see boys in there now about 20 and it feels a bit crazy. It’s the same at club level where we’ve got a lot of youngsters.
“I wouldn’t say I was a massive talker in the dressing room. I let the other boys do that and concentrate on my own game.
“But you’ve got to try and set that example on the pitch by working hard and showing what you can do. I always give 100 per cent to help take the team forward.”
James has certainly done that on his return to Leeds following a frustrating loan spell at Fulham last season.
The former Manchester United player made only five Premier League starts in West London and has had to rebuild confidence in the Sky Bet Championship following Leeds’ relegation from the top flight.
James said: “Fulham was a good learning curve for me and I don’t regret it at all.
“I didn’t play as much as I wanted to but, because it happened so late in the window on deadline day, it takes a while to settle and find somewhere to live.
“You’ve got children as well and the first two or three months were very hard. The World Cup was coming up and it’s always hard to settle in pretty quick.”
On his return to Leeds, where he has been joined by Wales teammates Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon, James said: “It’s great to be back. As soon as I got back in the summer I just wanted to play and show that I was there to stay and work hard.
“We had a little bit of a tricky start, but we’ve had a good run of games and we’ve just got to keep pushing.
“It’s always harder when you haven’t played many minutes, not just physically but mentally as well.
“You need to get into the rhythm of games and I’ve got that at Leeds now. I’m feeling fit and ready and, when that happens, everything comes naturally.”
Daniel James was speaking at a special fun football session at the Wales training camp to celebrate the wave of free McDonald’s Fun Football sessions in Wales this autumn. McDonald’s Fun Football is the UK’s largest grassroots participation programme for 5-11 year-olds. Find your nearest free session at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football
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