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Wales v Armenia: Key talking points as Rob Page’s side face crucial qualifier

17 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Brennan Johnson returns from injury for the game against Armenia. Picture by David Davies / PA Wire

Phil Blanche

Wales play their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier in Armenia on Saturday.

Automatic qualification is in Wales’ own hands as two closing victories will book their place in Germany next summer.

Here are some of the main talking points ahead of the game in Yerevan.

Deja vu

The parallels between Wales’ successful Euro 2020 qualification and the current campaign are hard to resist.

Wales reached Euro 2020 with a fast finish – holding 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia to a Cardiff draw before winning in Azerbaijan and downing Hungary after back-to-back summer defeats.

Having suffered another pointless June and just beaten Croatia in Cardiff, Wales head to the Caucasus region again to take on Azerbaijan’s neighbour Armenia before finishing with a visit from Turkey.

Six more points will do.

Brennan’s back

The loss of Tottenham forward Brennan Johnson to injury last month was a big blow.

Johnson’s pace and movement can trouble any defence, but boss Rob Page plugged the gap against Croatia by utilising a three-man forward line of David Brooks, Harry Wilson and Kieffer Moore.

All three performed superbly with Wilson claiming a match-winning double.

Johnson is expected to return, however – possibly at the expense of Brooks – with Page also likely to use the pace of Daniel James from the bench.

Midfield promise

There was much wailing in Wales when Joe Allen hung up his international boots following the World Cup in Qatar.

Allen played a massive role over the last decade and midfield was seen as a problem area in the wake of his departure.

But Ethan Ampadu, with nearly 50 caps at the age of 23, has shown his leadership qualities in striking up an effective partnership with 19-year-old Jordan James.

The pair were magnificent in getting the better of Croatia’s much-vaunted midfield last month.

Repeat or revenge?

Wales have failed to beat Armenia in three meetings.

There were two draws in 2002 World Cup qualifying, 2-2 in Yerevan when John Hartson scored a brace, before a goalless Cardiff clash.

Wales were expected to breeze past Armenia – 71 places below them on the FIFA rankings when they met in June – but a 4-2 defeat damaged their Euro 2024 qualification hopes.

More than one Welsh player has mentioned avenging that loss in the build-up to the Yerevan return.

Yellow peril

Defensive pair Chris Mepham and Neco Williams will be walking disciplinary tightropes in Armenia.

Both players have picked up two bookings in the campaign, and a third would rule them out of Tuesday’s final qualifier against Turkey.

Wales have yet to lose any player to three bookings, although Joe Morrell and Kieffer Moore served two-match bans for respective red cards against Turkey and Armenia in the summer.

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