Ben Davies has warned that Ryan Giggs’ youngsters must grow up fast on the international stage or Wales‘ Euro 2020 qualification ambitions will perish.
Wales meet Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday in a game which has taken on added importance after the weekend’s Group E results.
Hungary moved to the top of the section by winning 3-1 in Azerbaijan, three points ahead of Wales – who have a game in hand – after the Dragons were beaten 2-1 by Croatia.
The youthful nature of Giggs’ side was reflected by the fact that six of the starting XI have made their international bows since the Manchester United great was appointed Wales manager 17 months ago.
“This is their first real taste of international football,” Tottenham defender Davies, one of the few survivors from Wales’ Euro 2016 squad to start in Osijek on Saturday, said of the young players in Giggs’ squad.
“But we haven’t really got too much time for that learning curve if we want to qualify for the Euros.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you win games.
“It’s just making sure that we stop the opposition from doing their thing and show a better account of ourselves.”
Wales were forced to play catch-up on a scorching afternoon in Osijek, when the thermometer reached 30 degrees and players took water breaks at the halfway point of the first and second periods.
Croatia led 2-0 through a James Lawrence own goal and an Ivan Perisic strike at the start of the second half as the home side dominated courtesy of Luka Modric’s midfield mastery.
But Wales fought back through substitute David Brooks’ deflected drive and had late chances to snatch a draw as Giggs’ side finished strongly.
“We have to start games better,” Davies said.
“We can’t afford to concede sloppy goals like we did. Hopefully when those chances come it’s to win a game.
“I think we’re a better team than we showed.
“But it’s not great to play in the middle of the day in 30 degree heat. It took a lot out of us.”
Wales’ visit to the Groupama Arena now looks a pivotal fixture in the race for qualification.
Hungary’s win against Croatia in March has generated belief they can secure a top-two spot, and victory on Tuesday would give them a six-point advantage over Wales.
“If we’d have won here it would have put us in an unbelievable position,” Davies said.
“But it hasn’t really changed from the first week. We’ve got six more games and they’re all massive for us.”
England manager Gareth Southgate and his players are determined to reach new heights after their penalty shootout triumph saw them win bronze at the Nations League.
An unremarkable third-place play-off against Switzerland came to an entertaining conclusion at the Estadio D Afonso Henriques, where England’s glut of missed opportunities threatened to haunt them as the match ended 0-0 after 120 minutes.
But a year on from ending a run of five successive shootout losses at the World Cup in Russia, the man who helped Southgate’s team overcome Colombia on penalties was on hand once more.
Jordan Pickford denied Josip Drmic’s spot-kick in sudden death to seal a 6-5 win, having become the first goalkeeper to score a penalty for England in a competitive shootout.
“We’ve prepared well for that eventuality and we’ve talked to the players about it,” Southgate said.
“The first group who arrived three weeks ago have been drilled and we knew in a competition like this that we could be in that situation again.”
Ending with a victory was a welcome boost three days after the semi-final loss to the Netherlands.
But there was no fanfare like the Three Lions witnessed after their third-place play-off loss to Belgium in Russia as UEFA went for a private handover, with a bag of medals waiting for them off the pitch.
“I’ve not seen them yet,” Southgate said. “It’s quite ironic, really. We’ve had to go through another third/fourth play-off and we don’t even get them (the medals) in front of the fans. It’s just lobbed to us.
“I remember some of the guys that were at Liverpool that I played with who said that Joe Fagan used to throw the medals down the back of the bus at the following pre-season and say, ‘get on with it and if you’ve played enough games, take one’.
“That probably would pretty much sum up where we’d be at with this.
“The only other medals like this we’ve been involved with was the Tournoi in Glenn Hoddle’s time.
“It’s nice that we’ve got at least some acknowledgement for what we’ve done over the last year, but I think we’ll all be parking it to one side and looking forward.
“We’ve all recognised that we’ve hit a certain level, but it’s not a level we’re satisfied with, and so we’ve got to go again. We’ve always done that each summer.
“The drive I’ve seen from the players over the last couple of days has given me energy because I can see that the commitment is there to want to take it further with England, they’re not satisfied with where they’re at.
“And that, as a coach, actually sometimes gives you a lift, because you think you’re the only one that’s driving things and up all night trying to prepare for the game and repair from the other night.
“So, I take energy from all of my staff and all of the players, and they are a fantastic group to work with I have to say, and you saw that in the mentality that they showed today for the 120 minutes (of the game).
“But, we’ve got to keep getting better and we won’t settle until we do that.”
However, the victory came at a price as Arthur had to be substituted due to what looked like a knee injury and there are fears the Barcelona midfielder may miss the tournament in Brazil.
Already without the injured Neymar, Brazil made light work of Honduras. Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus and defender Thiago Silva headed Tite’s side into a two-goal lead before Romell Quioto was sent off for a challenge on Arthur.
Philippe Coutinho scored from the penalty spot and Jesus scored his second of the game after the break before David Neres, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Everton’s Richarlison completed the rout.
The result is Brazil’s biggest win since 2012 and came despite missing talisman Neymar, who is ruled out of the Copa America after suffering an ankle injury in a friendly against Qatar.
Jesus headed Brazil into an early lead at the back post, with the goal surviving a lengthy VAR check.
Silva doubled the lead after 12 minutes when he stole in front of his marker to guide in a near-post header from Coutinho’s corner.
Honduras were reduced to 10 men when Quioto was dismissed and Coutinho extended Brazil’s lead by converting a penalty awarded for Emilio Izaguirre’s foul on Richarlison.
Coutinho saw an effort strike the woodwork before Jesus helped himself to a simple second early in the second half when Richarlison unselfishly nodded Fernandinho’s lofted pass into his path.
Neres netted his first international goal with a fine solo run and finish before Firmino, who replaced Jesus, chipped in a tidy finish in the 65th minute.
Honduras were increasingly over-run and Richarlison scored a tap-in to complete the rout with 70 minutes on the clock.