Davies keen to prove doubters wrong as Wales target another major tournament
Ben Davies insists Wales are determined to prove the doubters wrong by making Euro 2024 and reaching a fourth major tournament in five attempts.
Wales are preparing for decisive Euro 2024 ties against Armenia and Turkey knowing qualification for next summer’s finals is in their own hands.
Last month’s stunning 2-1 upset win over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia has set Rob Page’s side up for what could be another momentous week in Welsh football.
Tottenham defender Davies, stand-in skipper for the injured Aaron Ramsey on the night and again this week, gave a rousing ‘huddle’ speech after the Croatia game that was caught on camera.
Yma O Hyd
Evoking the words of Dafydd Iwan’s Yma O Hyd – the 1980s folk protest song which has been adopted by the Football Association of Wales as an anthem and translates as “Still Here” – Davies declared that the Dragons never give in.
“It was just a case of showing the reason why we’re here,” Davies said of a speech which came during a campaign in which Wales have had to adapt to life without the match-winning exploits of the retired Gareth Bale.
“It was backs against the walls stuff, it was showing that people doubted us again but we’re still standing.
“We’re standing up against the challenges and here we are with two games to go still in the fight.
“We never stopped believing in this group. The mindset we’ve got is we can get a result against anyone. We’ve shown that.”
If they fail to qualify automatically – dropped points will leave them relying on other results for a top-two place – Wales are guaranteed a play-off place through their elite status in the last edition of the Nations League.
But overcoming Armenia and already-qualified Turkey might be an easier proposition than beating the likes of Norway, Poland and Ukraine in March.
Automatic qualification, however, looked improbable after June’s 4-2 defeat to Armenia in Cardiff, and the subsequent 2-0 away loss in Turkey three days later.
Davies said: “It was obviously disappointing to lose to Armenia at home in the summer.
“In these groups your home record usually has to be very good, but we’ve been here before.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall and we’ve given ourselves a chance. It’s exactly the same now.
“It’s quite clear the second game doesn’t matter if the first one doesn’t go our way.
“This week it’s full focus on Armenia. We had a tough result against them at home, it was a real wake-up call.
“They’re a good side and showed that against us, and it’s important we go there knowing we’ve got a big job to do.”
Davies, Ramsey and goalkeepers Danny Ward and Wayne Hennessey are the four survivors remaining from the squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
Wales went 58 years before their first major tournament – the 1958 World Cup – and their second in France.
But playing in Germany next summer would see them making four tournaments out of five – three successive European Championships and the 2022 World Cup.
“Growing up it was a dream of Welsh football to be going to these major tournaments,” Davies said.
“That dream still exists and this is another huge chance we’ve got.
“We don’t want to sit on the success and say: ‘OK, we’ve been there and had a nice time’.
“Once you get a taste of it you want to do it again. That’s exactly where we are as a group this time.”
Wales qualified for Euro 2020 by winning their final two games, away to Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary, and obvious parallels exist with a far-flung trip to Eastern Europe followed by a sell-out clash at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Davies said: “Of course there are similarities from the last time we qualified (for the European Championship).
“It’s a tight group and they’re always going to come down to it (last games), whatever happens. Most of us have been in this situation before and it’s an opportunity for us to do it again.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.