Five talking points ahead of Wales Euro 2024 qualifier against Latvia
The Dragons held the World Cup semi-finalists 1-1 in Split on Saturday with substitute Nathan Broadhead scoring a last-minute leveller on his international debut. Here, Planet Sport looks at the main talking points surrounding a Group D clash that Wales are expected to win at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Must-win for Wales
After the bonus of picking up a great point in Croatia, Wales have already entered must-win territory in their bid for a top-two spot in Group D. Latvia are the weakest side in the section, at least according to the FIFA world rankings, and Wales cannot afford to slip up against opponents that their group rivals will be expected to take points off. Boss Rob Page admitted as much by taking off skipper Aaron Ramsey, Daniel James and Harry Wilson just after the hour mark in Croatia when 1-0 down, knowing that he needs the trio's creativity to break down Latvia.
Has Nathan Broadhead pushed himself into Page's thinking for a starting spot against Latvia? The 24-year-old has been among the goals for Ipswich recently and his natural scoring instincts, as shown in Split, could be needed against Latvian visitors expected to defend deep and ensure that space in the penalty area is at a premium. Page, however, is expected to name the line-up that started in Split and use Broadhead from the bench again.
Daniel James' lack of action at loan club Fulham is proving a real headache for Page. James' speed is a huge asset for Wales and he has been a constant feature in the Dragons attack since making his debut in April 2019. But the former Manchester United forward looked off the pace in Split and his confidence levels were summed up when he snatched at a second-half scoring opportunity with the goal at his mercy.
Wales do not have to cast their minds back far to know that Latvia could cause embarrassment. Latvia's neighbours Estonia dented Wales' push for 2022 World Cup qualification by holding out for a goalless draw in Cardiff. The game should serve as a reminder that nothing should be taken for granted and an early goal would be a timely tonic to settle home nerves.
Nice to see you
This will be the first competitive match between Wales and Latvia. Their only previous meeting was on August 18, 2004 when late goals from John Hartson and Craig Bellamy gave Wales a 2-0 friendly victory in Riga. Latvia kick off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign ranked 133rd in world football, a whopping 105 places below Wales.
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