Gruelling Championship promotion test will ensure Wales have the personnel to cope with Euro play-off pressure

Berlin, DE, Feb 2023: The flags of Euro 2024 and UEFA fluttering in the wind. The 17th edition of the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship will be hosted by Germany. Realistic 3d illustration

If Wales are to book their spot at Euro 2024 next summer then they will need to successfully run the gauntlet of the play-offs after missing out on automatic qualification. Finishing third in Group D means that the Dragons will now host Finland on March 21st at the Cardiff City Stadium during a play-off semi-final.

Should Wales beat the Finns then they will set up a tie with either Poland or Estonia five days later which once again will be played at the home of the Bluebirds.

Wales odds-on to beat Finland

A look at the latest Paddy Power sports odds should encourage every Welsh fan as Rob Page’s men are priced as the favourite for the semi-final tie against Finland at 10/11.

This odds calculator will give you a better idea of the likelihood of Wales winning as a £10 bet would return a profit of just £9.09. Conversely, a £10 bet on Finland to win would return a profit of £30.

While the odds are in Wales’ favour, anything can and often does happen in football; the only guarantee is that it will be an anxious affair to watch as both teams put everything on the line to get one step closer to Euro 2024.

In Wales’ case, however, there is reason to believe that they should be well placed to handle the tension on the night as the spine of their team is currently involved in a nerve-shredding promotion race in the Championship. Currently, three of Wales’ starting XI play for Leeds United who are battling to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after being relegated at the end of the 2022/2023 season.

The daunting task facing Leeds United

The problem for Leeds is that their promotion ambitions have coincided with early pacesetters Leicester City and Ipswich Town making record-breaking starts to the season. Leicester’s haul of 11 wins from their opening 12 games was the best since the league was rebranded 19 years ago.

Ipswich meanwhile have been just as impressive with the Tractor Boys making the best start of any promoted side from League One in the history of the English Football League.

Put plainly, Leeds have their work cut out for them if they are to rein the Championship’s trailblazers in and as of the final international break of 2023, the West Yorkshire club lie eight points behind the pair.

Welsh contingent help Whites haul in pacesetters

However, the task of hauling them in seems like one that the Whites are up to as Daniel Farke’s men have beaten Leicester and Ipswich over recent weeks. In the win over Leicester, it was Daniel James’ assist that led to the only goal of the game and in the victory over Ipswich, centre-back Joe Rodon calmly marshalled the Whites’ defence to keep out a late onslaught from a team that was statistically the most in form in Europe at the time.

These sizeable contributions from Leeds’ Welsh contingent weren’t a once-off either with both James and Rodon now arguably the most important players at Elland Road.

Indeed, as of matchday 16, James has come up with five assists and three goals while Rodon’s five clean sheets in 13 games have helped the Whites achieve the second-best defensive record in the league.

Without question, these two players are enjoying the most productive spells of their careers to date and should they carry on performing at this level then Leeds will, in all probability, achieve promotion during a season where there is no margin for error.

Wales won’t be short of composure and talent

The knock-on effect for Wales is that by the time the Euro 2024 play-offs arrive in March, they will be able to call on a group of players who would have become accustomed to performing at an extremely high level while under intense pressure. It might well ensure that Wales are on the plane to Germany next summer.