The Cymru U21 side continue their 2023 UEFA qualifying campaign on Tuesday, 7 September as Paul Bodin and his squad head to Sofia to take on Bulgaria in their second Group E match.
UEFA U21 EURO QUALIFYING ROUND
Bulgaria U21 v Cymru U21
- 16:30 Tuesday 7 September
- Slavia, Sofia
- Live on S4C Clic and Sgorio's Facebook and YouTube channels
“We're all excited to be working together again but it will be a tough game,” explained versatile winger Niall Huggins who recently completed a move from Leeds United to Sunderland. “From what we know they will press us quite intensely which will be different to Moldova, as Moldova sat back and were tough to break down. We had to look for different ways to get through, but if they press high then there will be opportunities for us because we have got a really good players on the ball who can attack them.”
Cymru opened the qualifying campaign back in June with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Moldova at Llanelli. Sion Spence was controversially shown a second yellow card for simulation in the match and will now miss the first of what are four consecutive away qualifiers for the U21 side through suspension. “The performance was pretty good,” explained Bodin to the media last week when reflecting on the match. “We dominated possession and had plenty of shots, but we couldn't get that killer goal.
“They defended for their lives and we had a few early chances which we didn't take. I was reasonably pleased with the performance although we should have been more clinical in front of goal, but from a defensive aspect we kept a clean sheet. Attacking wise we have to do a bit better. We go to Bulgaria next, we've got a couple of little issues and unfortunately Sion (Spence) misses the match through suspension. It's a tough place to go, they've won three out of their five games this year, they play with a high-intensity and a high-pressure, but we will prepare as well as we can and hopefully win the game.”
Gwyliwch tîm D21 Cymru yn fyw ar-lein gyda @S4C wythnos nesaf!— Wales (@Cymru) September 2, 2021
Next week's U21 match against Bulgaria will be available to watch live on @sgorio's social media channels.#U21EURO | #TogetherStronger pic.twitter.com/dliIsAUvOu
In addition to Spence, Ryan Stirk, Christian Norton, Luke Jephcott and Terry Taylor have also been ruled out of the match, while defender Brandon Cooper has been promoted to the senior squad. Replacing them are Dan Williams, Isaak Davies, Kieron Evans, Keenan Patten and Ben Margetson. “When we go up against European opposition most of their U21 players are playing regular senior football for their respective clubs,” Bodin added. “That's something that we fall a little bit behind on as the majority of our boys have been playing U23 football. But these young men are bursting through now and getting their opportunity, and long may that continue.
“These boys are doing well at their clubs and fingers crossed they can stay in and around the 1st team, and the more games they can get is great for them personally, and hopefully we can take advantage of that at international level. Being amongst the 1st team environment and the senior players will only benefit these players, and when they come on camp with us you can see that development and progress. We're developing players for the senior team and they go there with our best wishes.”
Elsewhere in Group E on Friday, Bulgaria warmed up for the match against Cymru with a 2-0 win away to Moldova through goals from Martin Minchev and Mitkov Mitko, while Switzerland moved to the top of the group with a 4-0 win over Gibraltar in Sion. Alexandre Jankewitz, Jan Kronig, Felix Mambimbi and Zeki Amdouni were on target for the Swiss who now head to Gibraltar for the return match on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Netherlands will start their campaign at home to Moldova in Deventer.
The qualifying campaign will decide the 14 teams that will join host nations Romania and Georgia in the finals scheduled to take place between 9 June and 2 July 2023. The draw took place back in January when 53 teams were split into nine groups - eight groups of six teams and one group of five teams. Each group will be played in the usual home and away format with the nine group winners and the best runners-up (not counting results against the sixth-placed team) qualifying directly for the finals, while the remaining eight runners-up advance 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.