A superb goal from Daniel James separated Wales and Belarus in an international friendly at Cardiff City Stadium this evening, and manager Ryan Giggs highlighted a number of positives in his post-match press conference.
"I'm delighted with the performance," said Giggs. "I thought we were excellent. Two debutants, and all that was missing was that second goal. Rob Page has been telling me about Joe Morrell for a while, but he hasn't been playing regular club football until now. I watched Kieffer (Moore) two or three times last year. He gives us another option, and I was really pleased with both of them.
"I'm more than happy with two wins in a short space of time. I know it was difficult for the fans to get here tonight but I want to thank them for getting behind us. When you're in form you just want to keep playing, and Daniel James gets the fans off their feet. To do what he's done since the start of the season is amazing. He wants to be the best, he's a great character and a great trainer, and I'm really pleased for him. He's one of those players that you know what he's going to do, but you can't stop him.
"We've got to look after ourselves. If we win every game we qualify. You never know what the results are going to be in this group. We've got good form at home. I was frustrated Friday night, but the most important thing after two defeats in the summer was the win. It was a much better performance tonight, but I was happy with the three points on Friday. It's a tight group, and we need to take this momentum into October.
"It's been a good week of training, and we've had no real issues in terms of injuries. The lads have been brilliant and have worked hard like they always do, so it's been a good nine or ten days. You can tell the difference between the players who are playing regularly and those that are not, so hopefully they can keep playing for their clubs, and play well."
Ryan Giggs has named an experimental starting line-up for the international friendly against Belarus this evening with midfielder Joe Allen captaining the side.
Follow @Cymru for live updates from Cardiff City Stadium throughout the night and check back here later for all the post-match reaction.
Wales are back at the Cardiff City Stadium this evening as Ryan Giggs' side take on Belarus in an international friendly (7.45pm).
Although Wales are not in qualifying action, it is another important night in Group E as Croatia head to Azerbaijan and group leaders Hungary host Slovakia.
Captain Gareth Bale was the hero on Friday night as his 84th minute winner claimed three crucial points against Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying. Click the video below to relive the moment.
Following his later winner against Azerbaijan on Friday, Gareth Bale spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon.
"The most important thing was to get the win," explained Bale. "In an ideal world we would have played better, but we've put ourselves back in contention. It could have been better, but Azerbaijan make it difficult for teams. We understand the fan's frustration, but the reality is we had to win the match, and we did that.
"Football isn't simple, it's not easy all the time. There's things we have to work on and keep improving. In other games we might score four or five, and on another day we make scrape a win. But winning is the most important thing. We're progressing, we're working on our style of play and what the manager wants us to do.
"It's good to have this friendly to work on things in a real match situation rather than training, and we want to keep the momentum with the right result. I've got a personal goal target in my head, but the most important thing is the win.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we could qualify, I wouldn't be wasting my time. We need the support behind us. They gave us that extra bit of energy on Friday, and we're going to need that all the way through the campaign. We put this expectation on ourselves. We need to patient. We enjoy the pressure, and it's something we need to embrace. Scoring goals and playing well breeds confidence. Ideally, I will score a few more, and keep scoring."
Manager Ryan Giggs spoke to the media on Sunday lunchtime to talk about the 2-1 victory over Azerbaijan and to look ahead to the friendly against Belarus on Monday evening.
"Some players needed games, needed minutes," explained Giggs. "Everyone's come through alright. It's a juggling act, because there are players who haven't played a lot of games. You can pick big games, the priority is the qualifying games, but you can get a lot out of the friendly games too. I've looked back, I was delighted with some of the play, some of it was really good, but some of it was really bad.
There's no easy games in international football. We're always going to have to play well, and it's the win that counts. Expectations are high because we qualified for the Euros. We're not going to blow teams away often, and I can understand the criticism. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. We're getting there, but you don't know what players are going to turn up until a week before.
"I want to give players chances, and you have to take all these things into consideration. It's an important game tomorrow between Slovakia and Hungary. We're back in it, we've got two home games left. We've got talented players who want to entertain the crowd. Hopefully we can get a good win. Our support has been wonderful, and it does make a difference. It gives the players a lift.
"I would love a victory, and for the players to do as I ask, on a consistent basis. We're working on relationships on the field. I've got a certain style of play, but it depends on what players are available, but the same principles apply. I want us to play the ball quicker, but the principles remain the same. I've made an effort to play players who are playing regularly for their club.
"Gareth (Bale) has done three 90 minutes, he looked fit the other night, he was everywhere. You've got to fight until the end, it affects the opposition when they know that they're up against a team that will keep going. It's a big thing that you want in your team, not to give up."
There have only been four previous meetings between Wales and Belarus, and the match on Monday evening will be the first friendly between the two nations.
Wales currently have the advantage over their opponents having won three of the previous four competitive games. The first meeting took place in October 1998 at Ninian Park in UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying as goals from John Robinson, Chris Coleman and Kit Symons edged a 3-2 victory for Bobby Gould's team.
Mark Hughes was manager by the time the return match in Minsk came around in September 1999, and goals from Dean Saunders and Giggs were enough to claim a 2-1 victory.
Belarus claimed their one and only win over Wales in September 2000. Aleksandr Khatskevich and Valentin Bialkevich put the side ahead in Minsk, leaving Gary Speed's 89th minute goal to be nothing but a consolation.
Wales made amends in the return match in October 2001 as John Hartson scored the only goal of the game at the Millennium Stadium.
A late winner from captain Gareth Bale claimed a crucial three points for Wales in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying last night as the Real Madrid star scored in the 84th minute to seal a 2-1 victory over Azerbaijan at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Despite naming an attacking starting line-up, it proved to be a frustrating night for manager Ryan Giggs and his side until a fortuitous own goal from Pavlo Pashayev after 26 minutes put Wales ahead.
Giggs had highlighted the threat posed by Azerbaijan on the counter-attack in his press conference on Thursday, and that was exactly how the impressive Mahir Emreli equalised for the visitors on the hour mark. However, it was Bale who would be the hero for his country once again.
Elsewhere in Group E, World Cup finalists Croatia claimed a convincing 4-0 win away to Slovakia in Trnava to move level with early leaders Hungary. The action continues on Monday when Croatia travel to Azerbaijan and Hungary host Slovakia. Here are the updated standings courtesy of UEFA.com.
Ryan Giggs was a relieved figure as he spoke to the media following the 2-1 win over Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying, and praised goalscoring captain Gareth Bale for his 84th minute winner.
"Obviously, it was an important must-win game, and we won it," said Giggs. "I wasn't happy with the first half, because I knew 1-0 wasn't going to be good enough. But I'm delighted with the three points and with the character we've shown. There were positives, but also things we were disappointed with. I felt that there were goals there if we stuck to the game plan, but we were too hasty, and Azerbaijan are good at what they do. We played right into their hands in the first half, and I was frustrated. Azerbaijan have scored in every game and I was wary of that, and they worked hard tonight and made it difficult for us. They're a proud nation. No team can take Azerbaijan for granted when they play them.
"Gareth (Bale) has scored so many important goals for Wales over the years. He showed great character, just like the rest of lads, and I was really happy for him. We knew how they were going to play, and they're good at it. Joe Rodon was excellent for his first cap, Tom Lawrence worked really hard, and Jonny Williams made a difference when he came on. Ethan (Ampadu) makes it looks so easy, and he's hardly played in seven or eight months, and he puts in a performance like that. He's a future leader, and it's great to see him get minutes on the pitch. My hope is to see him get more games and get even better.
"I haven't had Jonny (Williams) much because of injury. He's in good form and he was unlucky not to start because of the form he's been in this season. He was playing in the right areas, and I was delighted for him to play like he did. He's an infectious character around the squad, and it was great to see him come on and give that type of performance. I think Azerbaijan had a plan for Daniel James to stop him having much time on the ball. He's a constant threat with his pace and his work rate. He's outstanding."
Manager Ryan Giggs has named an attacking starting line-up for the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan at the Cardiff City Stadium this evening.
Follow @Cymru for live updates throughout the evening and check back here later for all the post-match reaction.
Referee Trustin Farrugia Cann returns to Wales for the second time this season as he takes charge of Wales against Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying.
The Maltese official was the referee for the UEFA Champions League qualifier between JD Cymru Premier champions The New Saints and FK Feronikeli of Kosovo back in July. He also refereed The New Saints in the same competition back in 2016/17 when they defeated SP Tre Penne of San Marino.
The 33-year old has also refereed a UEFA Europa League qualifier in Armenia this season, as well as the UEFA U17 Championship finals that were held in Ireland back in May. He will be assisted by Alan Camilleri, who was also on duty at The New Saints in July, as well as Luke Portelli. The fourth official is Alan Mario Sant. All the officials are from Malta.
Gareth Bale will captain Wales against Azerbaijan on Friday, and the Real Madrid star talked openly about recent events when he sat down with the press and media on Thursday afternoon.
"I'm fully-fit and ready to go," he explained. "Not playing didn't affect me mentally, but physically I wasn't where I wanted to be for the last two games. But those games are over now, and we need to get back on track, and that's what we're aiming to do. It's nice to be back on the scoresheet, it's been a while. The main thing now is to prepare for tomorrow and do what we need to do, which is win the game. We know the pressure is on us after losing the two games in the summer. The mentality and the mindset doesn't change, and we will be doing everything we can to win every game.
"I don't read anything, I don't listen to anyone. People don't know the situation. I had a good summer holiday, I didn't think about it too much, I just kept my head down and worked hard in training. The things that happened will stay private. It's not been ideal, but I've been there before, and I know how to deal with it. I had a good pre-season in terms of training, and I know that things can turn quickly in football. I feel good, I feel stronger than ever. I'm in very good shape. I'm professional. I'm paid to play football, and you will have ups and downs. If you keep working hard, things will turn, and you will get rewarded.
"The young players in the squad know they need to work hard and keep their level of performance up. I'm happy to give them advice. The success that we've had in the last four or five years has made us a force. The hard work we've done has made that happen, and we have a lot of youngsters coming through now. It's an exciting time for us. We've got the belief and confidence to do what we need to do, and that's give a good performance of ourselves. It's always good to be back with the Wales squad. I love playing for my country. I always enjoy it and we've got an important game."
Ryan Giggs spoke to the media at Cardiff City Stadium this morning and confirmed that his squad are fully-fit and ready for the challenge of taking on Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying.
"Everyone's fit and raring to go," the manager explained. "With two defeats, you're up against it. But it's still early in the group and there's points to play for. If we're going to qualify we need to compete and win our home games. We've got tough games ahead. Every time you play for your country you're under pressure, but you've got to welcome that pressure.
"We won our first game at home, and we've got a great record here. The players love playing here and we get fantastic support. We're relying on the fans, but we have to get the fans going as well. It won't be easy, Azerbaijan will make it difficult, and they have scored in every game. You want all your players to be playing, Gareth (Bale) has had a few 90 minutes, and we know what he's capable of. He's relaxed, he's a leader on and off the pitch, and someone that all the players look up to.
"Dan (James) has got off to a great start in his Manchester United career and he's performed well for Wales. I haven't been surprised, he had a good pre-season and played nearly every game. When you come on and score, that gives you a lift, and confidence is everything. We know what he's capable of, and he's getting better and better. He's at a club where they love wingers, and I'm pleased for him. He's down to earth and he will keep his feet on the ground. The spotlight and the pressure is always on Gareth, but we have got other talented players in the squad.
"Ben (Davies) feels good, but we've got Neil Taylor as well who has been playing games back in the Premier League. They're two experienced players I can call upon in that position. All four of our central defenders are playing, and playing well. I've got a choice in that department. All four can come in and do a job.
"Azerbaijan have scored in every game and they have conceded quite a few. It's up to us to be wary of their counter-attack, we're taking nothing for granted. We expect a tough game, we will have a lot of the ball, but we have to watch their counter-attack. This group is so competitive. Hungary have done well, and it's crucial that we get a positive result on Friday."
Manager Ryan Giggs and captain Gareth Bale will speak to the press and media at Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon.
The squad trained at the stadium this morning ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan on Friday night. Check back shortly to find out what Giggs and Bale had to say about the match and the campaign so far.
There have been six competitive meetings between Wales and Azerbaijan, with Wales winning five games and drawing once.
The first meeting took place in November 2002 when the late Gary Speed and John Hartson scored in a 2-0 win in Baku. The only draw between the two nations also took place in Baku in September 2004 when a goal from Rashad Abulfaz Sadygov earned a point for the home side in World Cup qualifying.
The last time the sides were paired together was in 2010 World Cup qualifying, as Sam Vokes and Dave Edwards (below) scored in respective 1-0 victories. The match on Friday will be the first meeting between the two teams in just over a decade, with the last fixture taking place in Baku in June 2009.
Daniel James marked his first international start with a superb strike at the Cardiff City Stadium back in March as Wales opened the current qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovakia.
Prior to the match, Ryan Giggs' squad warmed-up with a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in an international friendly in Wrexham. Click the video below to watch highlights of both games.
In the build-up to Friday's match we caught up with Oqtay Atayev, the Azerbaijani correspondent for UEFA.com, for the opposition view on the fixture.
"If Wales play typical British football, they should have no problems defeating Azerbaijan, unless they underestimate them," Atayev explained. "However, if Wales do take Azerbaijan for granted, then they will have a hard time.
"Azerbaijanis will fight for their prestige and pride and will not relax. The pressure will increase on Wales in front of the own supporters every minute until they score a goal. Which of course will benefit the visitors."
You can read the full interview with Oqtay in FC Cymru - The official matchday magazine.
Young defensive duo Joe Rodon and Chris Mepham sat down with the Welsh football media on Monday to discuss the crucial EURO 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan.
"I just love playing game in, game out, it's only going to improve me," explained Rodon, when asked about how he was enjoying his regular club football with Championship leaders Swansea City this season, before highlighting the progress of Daniel James following his summer move from the Liberty Stadium to Manchester United.
"He hasn't got a bad bone in his body," Rodon added. "He's a brilliant kid and a close friend of mine. Manchester United is a massive club and for him, to go there and do what he has done is a credit to him and all of the development over the years. Hopefully he can continue at a high level."
Meanwhile, Mepham paid tribute to captain Ashley Williams, who was omitted from the squad having only joined Bristol City a fortnight ago. "Ash has been a real servant to Welsh football for a long, long time and he has been really good with the young lads because of his experience," the Bournemouth defender explained.
"He will be big miss. But whatever partnership it is on Friday night, it's going to be a good one because we have four or five good centre-backs who are playing regularly. It's a massive game. Coming away from the two summer games without any points was really frustrating. This is a must-win for us."
After a year and a half at the helm of @Cymru, manager Ryan Giggs is facing the sternest test of his coaching credentials— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) 4 September 2019
We talk to him on:
Bouncing back in @UEFAEURO qualifying
His policy of putting faith in youth
@GarethBale11's strong start to the season
Hungary are the current Group E leaders with nine points from their opening four games, while Azerbaijan are still searching for their first point of the campaign.
A solitary strike from Daniel James was enough for Wales to beat Slovakia in Cardiff back in March, but Ryan Giggs' side failed to build on that impressive start against Croatia and Hungary.
Meanwhile, the competitive nature of the group has also seen Slovakia beat Hungary, and Hungary beat Croatia, so there are likely to be a few more twists and turns before the final placings are decided.
Despite losing their opening three games, Azerbaijan took a shock lead against World Cup finalists Croatia in Zagreb in their first game. However, goals from Borna Barišić and striker Andrej Kramarić restored order for the hosts before the final whistle.
The action continues on Friday as Wales take on Azerbaijan in Cardiff and Slovakia host Croatia. On Monday, Croatia head to Azerbaijan and Hungary meet Slovakia in Budapest. It is set to be another important week in the group.
Here are the current standings courtesy of UEFA.com.
Ryan Giggs' Wales take on Azerbaijan at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, desperate to get the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign back on track following back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Hungary.
Aaron Ramsey and David Brooks headline the list of unavailable players, but Gareth Bale arrives on camp in form having returned to the Real Madrid starting line-up.
Meanwhile, Harry Wilson and Daniel James have hit the ground running in the Premier League, and will be keen to repeat their goalscoring form on the international stage this week.
Click the video below for highlights of our last two qualifiers.
Cymru meet Azerbaijan at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday (6 September) in a European Qualifiers match for UEFA EURO 2020.
The action then continues on Monday (9 September) as Ryan Giggs' side host Belarus in an international friendly.
The Live Match Hub brings you all the latest information in the build-up to both matches so make sure you check back regularly for updates.