A host of Leeds United players are away on international duty at present with the Championship season taking a break.
It’s a huge night for Leeds United’s contingent of Wales internationals, who could breathe life into their nation’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2024. Wales take on Croatia at the Cardiff City Stadium this evening and they know a victory would see them keep their hopes of qualification alive with two games remaining.
Rob Page’s side are fourth in Group D, which is currently being topped by Turkey, but they’re just three points short of Croatia, who occupy the final qualification spot at present. As such, the Dragons know that if they can claim victory against Croatia this evening, they will move level on points with last year’s World Cup semi-finalists ahead of the final two rounds of qualifying fixtures next month.
Wales will be flying high in confidence after seeing off Gibraltar 4-0 on Wednesday night and Dan James, Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon will all be keen to be involved on what could be another dramatic occasion for Welsh football. James picked up two assists at Wrexham earlier this week, while Ampadu and Rodon, who have been in tremendous form for Leeds in the Championship, will be feeling relatively fresh after sitting out of the friendly match.
While the Welsh will be focused on picking up the victory, they know a defeat in Cardiff would all but spell the end of their qualifying hopes, leaving them with six points and a substantial goal difference to overcome in November. In truth, it’s been a tough weekend so far for those senior Leeds players who have been in qualifying action with their respective nations.
Ilia Gruev saw his hopes of competing in next summer’s competition for Bulgaria dashed as they lost 2-0 to Lithuania in Sofia. Gruev played the full 90 minutes which will please Daniel Farke, who has used him sparingly so far, but he was selected as a centre-back and picked up some criticism for his performance in the Bulgarian press.
Bulgaria can still qualify for Euro 2024 via the play-offs, but given they are currently propping up Group G with games against group leaders Hungary and Serbia remaining, the odds are stacked against them. Gruev will hope to keep his spot in the side next week when Bulgaria travel to Tirana to take on Albania in a friendly.
Glen Kamara also got 90 minutes under his belt on Saturday, but it came in Finland’s 3-0 loss to Slovenia in Ljubljana. As a result, the Finnish are now four points adrift of automatic qualification with games against Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland and San Marino remaining.
Qualification is not out of the question, then, but Kamara’s side know they need one of Slovenia or Denmark to slip up over their three remaining qualification games.
Archie Gray was in action on Saturday, too, as he turned out for England U19s against Wales in their second 2024 European U19 Championship qualifying match in Montenegro. The game was drawn 1-1 with Romain Esse of Millwall scoring the goal for the Young Lions, and Gray played the full 90 after being selected to play right-back by Simon Rusk.
There was a familiar face in the Wales line-up, too, with Leeds U21 midfielder Charlie Crew captaining England’s opponents. Gray will hope to keep his spot in the side as England take on Austria on Tuesday night, knowing a win would be enough to secure their place in the elite round.
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