Wales U-19s travel to Northern Ireland this week to take on the hosts in two fixtures, as part of their preparation for the UEFA U-19 qualifiers that take place in Kazakhstan later this year.
Manager Jayne Ludlow and Head Coach Rehanne Skinner have named a squad of 20 players for the two fixtures that will both take place at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday, 22nd July (2.30pm) and Monday, 24th July (12.00pm). The fixtures are part of the popular ‘SuperCupNI’ tournament that has helped launch a number of professional playing careers over the years.
“These two games offer us a great opportunity to build on the progress that we have made both technically and tactically,” Skinner explained to FAW.cymru on the first day of camp. “We want to continue to implement the Welsh values that are important to everything that we do as a group, and this is a fantastic chance for us to do that.
“The players involved have come through the pathway system with Jayne (Ludlow) and myself and they are progressing well, with some already featuring for the senior side. The squad come from a range of different club environments, but we also have players that are in our national academy system. We have a lot more access to them as a result, and the benefits are obvious, which you need to compete at international level.
“There’s a good balance in this squad of players,” added Skinner. “Our defence has been together for a while now and are very assertive, while we have senior international experience in our midfield. Our forwards have a lot of pace and technically we are very good in possession. This will be a good test for us, and these are the sort of games we need as we are always striving to improve. These experiences of playing against nations preparing to play in the finals of a tournament will benefit us in the future.”
Wales have been drawn in Group 2 for the expanded 2017/18 UEFA Under-19 qualifiers and will take on England, Slovenia and host nation Kazakhstan in October as they look to progress into the Elite round. A record 48 nations will compete for a place in the 2018 finals that will take place in Switzerland, but only seven of these nations will join the hosts in the tournament next summer.
While the immediate focus for the U-19 side will be on their performances in Northern Ireland, Skinner was keen to emphasise the wider benefits to a successful tournament. “We are always looking to promote young players into the senior squad,” she added. “There are players in this squad who have the opportunity to play in both the Under-19 qualifiers as well as the World Cup qualifiers with the senior side later this year. This is a great chance for them to showcase themselves, and the onus is on them to go out and show what they can do, as there really is a lot for them to play for.”