Wales host Latvia in their second game of Euro 2024 qualifying on Tuesday boosted by a superb opening draw in Croatia.

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.

Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes looks at the main talking points surrounding a Group D game that Wales are expected to win at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Smash and grab?

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Robert Earnshaw described Wales’ 1-1 draw as a real smash and grab against Croatia in their Euro 2024 qualifier

With the euphoria of Saturday’s 93rd-minute equaliser against Croatia, it was described by some as a ‘smash and grab’ result.

That may be the case, but it doesn’t half do wonders for confidence, mood, momentum and preparation. It was really interesting to hear from Rob Page ahead of the Latvia game speaking about how he and his backroom staff do plan ahead for a whole campaign, they ‘war-game’ every scenario.

That puts to the end then the oft-used phrase ‘one game at a time’ as in this case it’s eight games at a time. Page’s honest admission that the draw against Croatia was a bonus means that their qualifying group and Wales’ campaign can shift. It opens up.

They’d planned or perhaps hoped for a draw at best especially as they had to manage game time for several players who haven’t had as much time playing at their clubs as they’d like.

“We’ve got to be sensible as the plan was four points,” he said. “With six, we’d have won the lottery.

“The front six aren’t all playing at club level so we have to be sensible. Tuesday is the game we’re looking at as the winnable game. To get the point at Croatia was like a win for us… Thankfully the plan worked on Saturday.

“We’re already looking at the eight fixtures we’ve got and we’ve tried to forecast how many points we can get. The Croatia game was a bonus point and now we can only focus on ourselves. We’ve got to finish this camp off in a positive way heading into June’s camp.”

Ramsey impact

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Aaron Ramsey reflected on Wales’ 1-1 draw with Croatia, what it feels like to be captain again and how the younger players are adapting to international football

Following Gareth Bale as captain of your country is a hard act to pull off, however early signs are that Aaron Ramsey is doing the job his way. To be lucky is a great asset to have and Wales will admit to some luck in getting a point against Croatia, but you do often make your own luck.

Wales could have settled for a plucky 1-0 defeat, they could have expected Croatia to get a second goal and end the game as a contest, but they kept driving and Nathan Broadhead was in the right place at the right time.

Never give up. That comes from the manager, the players, but also the captain. Ramsey’s delight at the late equaliser along with the rest of the squad says lots about their group mentality.

Ramsey said he would be a different captain to Bale, he’s quieter and gently spoken, but Wales fans will surely be delighted to hear him say that he feels it is right that he is now the Wales captain, that it’s his time to take a new group forward.

The Nice midfielder is making it very clear that it’s a fresh start for Wales after their disappointing World Cup and that he is not in any shadow of Bale.

Goals and managing minutes

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Geraint Hughes broke the news that Nottingham Forest striker Brennan Johnson withdrew from the Wales squad despite playing for his club last weekend with a reported groin injury

Once again Page has to manage his team as several players aren’t getting regular time on the pitch with their clubs.

Hence the substitution of Kieffer Moore for example on Saturday night. Moore is a source of goals for Wales, his record Internationally is good and with no Bale, his knack for a goal becomes even more valuable. So when he is on the pitch Wales must utilise him, get the ball to him where he can cause problems.

Page would love to have Brennan Johnson as an attacking option, but that’s not going to happen so Wales cannot be wasteful. Chances and goals will be at a premium.

Expect more opportunity for young players and with Wales having an excellent track record of introducing youngsters and in the case of Nathan Broadhead who at 24 is young, but not a teenager – these fresh-faced enthused players have an impact and often a goal in them.

Latvia threat

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Wales manager Rob Page discusses their point against Croatia and their upcoming fixtures, and says Brennan Johnson won’t be joining the squad after the forward withdrew last week

The stats don’t look good for Latvia. They have only won a single European Championship qualifying match in their last 21 attempts. Flip it to Wales and they haven’t lost at home in any qualifying match for Euros or World Cup in 21 games. So on paper, easy-peasy for Wales! As we all know football often doesn’t go to plan.

So Latvia’s threat to Wales will doubtless involve the art of frustration. They’ll be compact and disciplined, with that will come threats from set-pieces.

The onus will be on Wales to drive the game and expect them to have a majority of possession which will contrast completely with Saturday night in Split where Croatia dominated that area. Captain Ramsey clearly aware that a totally different game plan is required.

Page said: “It’s a quick turnaround so there’s been a lot of emphasis on recovery, taking on as much information as we can in the meetings, press higher, sustain that pressure in their half. This is what we’re going to try to achieve on Tuesday.

“Latvia will be very disciplined, defending in a low block and try to hit us on the counter-attack. We want to dominate the ball and so it’s going to be up to us to make that happen.

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty more of the ball so it’s up to us what we do with that. Of course we want to be an attacking team which scores as many goals as we can, but the three points are the most important thing.”

It’ll be a test for this new Wales.

Both Page and Ramsey have alluded to a fresh start for Wales after the World Cup and the retirement of several senior players, most notably Gareth Bale.

We will see how Wales now cope with an opponent who will be stubborn and deny Wales space and time on the ball in midfield and in the final third. How have Page and his coaching staff, several of whom and new to the group worked our plans for Wales to break through Latvia and get goals?

You feel if Wales can get an early goal in the first 20 minutes that will settle the nerves and get the crowd energised. A second goal before half-time would be a perfect script, but as mentioned earlier football doesn’t always follow a written-down plan.

Should Wales capitalise on their result away in Croatia by beating Latvia it will put them on four points in the group. Page would have bitten off and chewed any arm if he’d been offered that before a ball was kicked. Taking points off Croatia in their back yard really opens up the group favourably for Wales, even at this early stage.

Croatia hardly ever drop points at home. Doing so against Wales will be a wake-up call for them and you could easily see them doubling down on their home games and winning the remainder, and in doing so taking points away from Turkey, Latvia and Armenia. That’s just good for Wales… but they MUST beat Latvia.

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