Bodin targets defensive improvement in U21 qualifying
10 November 2021

Bodin targets defensive improvement in U21 qualifying

The Cymru U21 squad return to UEFA U21 EURO qualifying as they head to Gibraltar (Friday 12 November) before the side return to Rodney Parade in Newport to take on Switzerland (Tuesday 16 November) in the latest round of Group E fixtures.

2023 UEFA U21 EURO Qualifying Round

Cymru v Switzerland

  • 16:00 Tuesday 16 November
  • Rodney Parade, Newport
  • Tickets available here

It has been a frustrating campaign for Paul Bodin's side despite an impressive 4-0 win over Bulgaria back in September, with the side dropping four points against Moldova and suffering a heavy 5-0 defeat against the Netherlands in their last match. “We were disappointed with the results in the last camp,” explained Bodin following the announcement of his 21-man squad last week. “Both games were disappointing defensively, especially at set-plays which is usually something we are reasonably good at, but when you're playing against quality opposition with good movement and desire, we have to learn to be better. Hopefully in this camp we will see an improvement in that.

“The Moldova game in particular was a game we believed we could win but you have to earn the right to do that,” Bodin added regarding the 1-0 defeat. “As much as we pretty much dominated possession of the ball and the chances that we created, their keeper was in good form but we did miss a couple of good opportunities. Of course, when you give them something to hold on to, they re-energise and Moldova didn't give anything up. But we just couldn't breakthrough so that was a disappointing one, and then we went to Holland for what was a totally different game. They were excellent, but again, we gave some disappointing goals away.”

Image Not Found.

Gibraltar currently sit bottom of the group having lost all four of their games and the side are yet to score a single goal in the campaign. However, Switzerland have set the pace and are the undefeated group leaders heading into this next round of fixtures. “These will be two contrasting games,” added Bodin. “Gibraltar will sit back and defend for their lives. Switzerland are an excellent team, I watched them against Holland last month, and although they drew 2-2, they were the better team on the day. So two contrasting games and we're looking forward to both of them, but certainly we are looking to improve our defensive set-plays in particular.

 “When you're in the heat of the moment, and you've just lost 5-0, you're quite emotional and you have to be careful what you say and stay in control. As I always say, we are a development group who are trying to produce players for the 1st team, and we were depleted for the last camp for different reasons. But even though we weren't at maximum strength there's still no excuse for some of the goals against. They can be avoided and so of course you address that, but the players have to keep learning and improving after each game. Every campaign is a new campaign with new players coming in. They are young men, they're learning all the time so they do have to step up to the plate. It's a big step up and if you make a mistake at this level then you will get punished. You have to learn very, very quickly.”

Cardiff City teenager Eli King is a new name in the squad, with the 18-year old making his senior debut for the Bluebirds against Middlesbrough last month. “Physically he's developed over the last 12 months and his performances are really consistent now and he can make a real impact in games,” explained Bodin. “He's a big, powerful player who can pass the ball forward and he can defend well as a holding centre midfield player, so we're looking forward to working with him. He's a player in form and he's a player who's developing really well at Cardiff City.”

Ryan Astley will also look to make his first appearance at this level, while Kieron Evans, Fin Stevens, Sam Bowen and Niall Huggins have been ruled out. The nine group winners and the best runners-up (not counting results against the sixth-placed team) qualify directly for the finals, while the remaining eight runners-up advancing to the play-offs. The winners of the four two-legged home and away ties will then progress to the finals. Cymru have never qualified for the U21 finals, but did reach the play-offs in 2009.