Ben Davies: Wales have ‘backs to the wall’ in Euro 2024 qualifying bid

Ben Davies is aiming to qualify for a fourth major tournament with Wales
Venue: Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, Yerevan Date: Saturday, 18 November Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text
Highlights: Match of the Day Wales, BBC One Wales from 22: 45 GMT and later on demand

A resurgent Wales have their “backs to the wall” as they aim to qualify for Euro 2024, says captain Ben Davies.

Wales have recovered from a poor start to their campaign to leave themselves needing to beat Armenia and Turkey to seal automatic qualification.

Tottenham defender Davies, 30, gave an impassioned speech after last month’s stirring 2-1 win over Croatia and wants the same intensity and focus for Wales’ remaining two matches.

“We never stopped believing,” he said.

“The mindset we’ve got is we can get a result against anyone. We’ve shown that.

“It [the speech] was just a case of showing the reason why we’re here. 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.”

Davies’ rousing address to his team-mates in a post-match huddle was one of the most enduring images of Wales’ victory over Croatia.

The 82-cap defender is usually calm and softly spoken, but he was visibly pumped up and animated as he delivered a speech which referenced Dafydd Iwan’s iconic protest song Yma o Hyd.

The 1983 Welsh-language song, with a title which translates as ‘Still Here’, chronicles the survival of Wales the nation and its language through history and has become an anthem for Welsh football in recent years.

“I’m more than happy to be the vocal one in this group,” said Davies.

“That was just in the heat of the moment. We were one team. It wasn’t just the starting 11 – it was the whole squad, it was the staff, it was everyone. We got the result we wanted because of that.”

Ben Davies
Ben Davies is captaining Wales in the absence of regular skipper Aaron Ramsey, who is injured

Emotions were running high in the Wales squad before and after the Croatia game, with players rallying around manager Robert Page after Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney said his position was under review.

Davies and Harry Wilson, who scored both goals against Croatia, were among those to publicly support Page and described Mooney’s comments as “unhelpful”.

Page and Mooney have since met, held “positive” talks and said they are keen to move on, as is Davies.

“We’ve got a good group here,” the former Swansea City player said.

“We know what’s expected of us and we’re not looking too far ahead.

“We can’t take our eyes off the fact that each game is important in itself. If we don’t get a result in Armenia, the Turkey one is kind of irrelevant so it’s important our sole focus is on Armenia.”

If Wales do not win both matches against Armenia and Turkey, they will need to rely on other results to qualify automatically for Euro 2024.

Failing that, if Page’s side finish outside Group D’s top two, they must rely on the play-offs in March to secure their place at next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Wales will be eager to avoid that route and keep their destiny in their own hands, and they can take encouragement from striking similarities between this campaign and their successful bid to qualify for Euro 2020.

On that occasion, they lost back-to-back matches in June 2019 before an autumn recovery – including a creditable home draw with Croatia – set up a November finale in which they won in Azerbaijan before beating Hungary at home to seal qualification.

This time, having lost to Armenia and Turkey in June, autumn victories over Latvia and Croatia have reignited Welsh hopes ahead of their closing double-header, in Armenia on Saturday and at home to Turkey the following Tuesday.

“Of course there are similarities from the last time we qualified,” said Davies.

“Those last two games are vital. It’s a tight group and they’re always going to come down to it, whatever happens. We’re ready for it.

“It was obviously disappointing to lose the game at home [to Armenia]. In these groups your home record usually has to be very good.

“But we’ve been here. We’ve had our backs against the wall and we’ve given ourselves a chance, and it’s exactly the same now.

“Most of us have been in this situation before and it’s an opportunity for us to do it again.”

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