Wales U19 manager Paul Bodin believes his side have every chance of reaching the UEFA Elite round of fixtures ahead of hosting the Group 4 qualifiers (14-20 November).
2019 UEFA Under-19 Championship Qualifying Round
- Scotland 17:00 14/11/18 Belle Vue, Rhyl
- Sweden 15:00 17/11/18 VSM Stadium, Bangor
- San Marino 15:00 20/11/18 VSM Stadium, Bangor
“The preparations have gone really well over a long period of time,” explained Bodin to FAW.cymru as he announced his squad for the matches that will take place at Rhyl FC and Bangor City FC. “Over the last two camps we've seen a real progression throughout the group, there's one or two new additions, and now we're really looking forward to the competition.”
As well as competing at the Slovakia Cup earlier this year, Bodin's side recently played two friendlies against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, and last month beat Poland 2-0 in a friendly at Bangor City ahead of their return to competitive action against Scotland, Sweden and San Marino.
“They all bring different challenges,” Bodin explained. “The opening game against Scotland will be a real tough fixture. They're quite a physical side who play some good football at the right times. Sweden will be a different sort of challenge. They play slightly different football, more controlled, and I'm sure San Marino will park the bus as they say. So three different challenges, three different types of games, but the opening game against Scotland will be a real good test and hopefully we'll be ready for it.”
The elevation of a number of young players into Ryan Giggs' senior side has turned the spotlight onto the next generation coming through the pathway system, and Bodin has already seen an increase in motivation in his squad as a result. “Recently we've been together at the same time as the senior team were playing,” he added. “We watched the opening game against Ireland and it was fantastic.
“Players like Ethan Ampadu, who is the same age as our boys, to go and play at that level and play outstandingly well is a real incentive for them. They have an extra spring in their step because they can see what's happening above them. That's the challenge, and it should be a burning ambition for all the players, especially after what's happened under the last two managers where they've both been prepared to put the young players in. The better the boys play, and the quicker they will progress, then they will get opportunities at the higher level.”
Wales open their qualifying campaign against Scotland at Rhyl, and Bodin believes that his side will benefit from preparing and playing in familiar surroundings with a home crowd behind them. “We familiarised ourselves there last year, and more recently at Bangor,” he explained. “The boys know the hotels and they know the environment. It's a good place for us. We've spent a lot of time up there over the last year or so. Hopefully the crowd will get behind us, and as the host nation, we want to do well.”
But while progression and development has become an integral part of the national team in recent years, it still remains very much a results business when it comes to competitive action. “Playing football and developing is great,” Bodin added. “But there's no better feeling in football than winning football matches. We've won two of the last three games, so we're moving in the right direction.
“All the planning has been around playing well, playing the right way, but also about winning games. If we can win two of the next three in the tournament we'll qualify. So that's our aim, to win as many games as we can, playing the right way, and playing in a way allows the players to express themselves and continue their long-term development. We've got a good chance of qualifying, providing we approach each game in the right way.”
The matches at Belle Vue, Rhyl and the VSM Stadium in Bangor are all ticketless, free entry. Both the group winners and runners-up will advance to next year’s Elite Round. The finals will be held in Armenia in July 2019.
Adam Pryzbek (West Bromwich Albion), George Ratcliffe (Cardiff City), Ryan Reynolds (Cardiff City), Jay Foulston (Newport County), Lewis Collins (Newport County), Morgan Boyes (Liverpool), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Ryan Astley (Everton), Ben Cabango (The New Saints, on loan from Swansea City), Brandon Cooper (Swansea City), Joe Adams (Bury), Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest), Luke Jephcott (Plymouth Argyle), Christian Norton (Southampton), Isaak Davies (Cardiff City), Jack Vale (Blackburn Rovers), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Ryan Stirk (Birmingham City), Sam Bowen (Cardiff City), Dan Griffiths (Cardiff City).