by Cole Martin
WALES produced a stirring display to beat Hungary 2-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium and book their place at next summer’s European Championships.
A brace from the returning Aaron Ramsey sent the Red Dragons on their way to a second-successive Finals, which will be hosted across 12 European cities from June 12th to July 12th.
The format for the competition has been made a lot more complex due to host countries being guaranteed at least two home games in the group, and, combined with seedings, possible spots for Ryan Giggs’ side have been limited.
Groups C-F will be allocated to the play-off winners, as host countries Scotland, Hungary, Republic Of Ireland and Romania all failed to qualify automatically, but will have a second bite at the cherry when the play-offs commence in March.
This means Wales, alongside fellow fourth-seeders Finland, can only be placed into Group A or B, and they will find out their destiny when the draw takes place on November 30.
As opposed to teams in Group C-F, Wales will know the full extent of their group, but as they are only one of two teams from the fourth pot currently qualified, they could potentially be grouped with some daunting opponents.
Pot 1: Italy; Belgium; England; Germany; Ukraine; Spain.
Pot 2: France; Poland; Switzerland; Croatia; Netherlands; Russia.
Pot 3: Portugal; Turkey; Austria; Denmark; Sweden; Czech Republic.
Pot 4: Wales; Finland; Playoff A; Playoff B; Playoff C; Playoff D.
Firstly, the two stadiums in use for Group A will be the 68,000-seater Stadio Olimpico in Rome, and the Baku Olympic Stadium, which holds 69,000 people.
Italy are guaranteed to be in this group, but Azerbaijan have failed to qualify altogether which has freed up a vacancy for non-hosting countries.
If Wales are drawn into Group A, there is potential for the young squad to experience the euphoria of the opening game of the tournament, as Rome will kick off the first of 51 matches, but their two other games would take place far away from home, in Baku.
More hypothetical opponents in Group A will come via a team from Pot 2 and one from Pot 3 – excluding host countries Netherlands, Denmark and Russia. This means Wales and Italy could be joined by one of France, Poland, Croatia or Switzerland, as well as one of Portugal, Austria, Turkey, Sweden or Czech Republic.
Group B is a lot more straightforward, as three teams have already been allocated a place. They consist of Belgium, Denmark and Russia. The stadiums are the 38,000-seater Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, and the Krestovsky Stadium in St.Petersburg, which has a capacity of 61,000.
Giggs’ men would effectively face two away games in this group, as Denmark would be the opponents in Copenhagen, and Russia in St.Petersburg. The location for the Belgium game will be either one of the noted cities, and will be confirmed when the draw takes place.
If Wales manage to repeat their heroics of Euro 2016, though, this will open the door to a lot more potential locations for Welsh fans to explore, as each city will host at least one knockout match.
Due to adjustments from UEFA, made prior to 2016, the four best third-placed teams will be able to advance to the knockout rounds. All potential fixtures for Wales are highlighted in bold.
Round of 16:
Match 37: Winner Group A v Runner-up Group C – Wembley Stadium, London (90,000)
Match 38: Runner-up Group A v Runner-up Group B – Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam (56,000)
Match 39: Winner Group B v 3rd Group A/D/E/F – San Mames, Bilbao (53,000)
Match 40: Winner Group C v 3rd Group D/E/F – Puskas Arena, Budapest (68,000)
Match 41: Winner Group F v 3rd Group A/B/C – Arena Nationala, Budapest (56,000)
Match 42: Runner-up Group D v Runner-up Group E – Parken Stadium, Copenhagen (38,000)
Match 43: Winner Group E v 3rd Group A/B/C/D – Hampden Park, Glasgow (52,000)
Match 44: Winner Group D v Runner-up Group F – Aviva Stadium, Dublin (52,000)
Match 45: Winner Match 41 v Winner Match 42 – Krestovsky Stadium, St.Petersburg (61,000)
Match 46: Winner Match 39 v Winner Match 37 – Allianz Arena, Munich (75,000)
Match 47: Winner Match 40 v Winner Match 38 – Olympic Stadium, Baku (69,000)
Match 48: Winner Match 43 v Winner Match 44 – Stadio Olimpico, Rome (68,000)
Match 49: Winner Match 45 v Winner Match 46 – Wembley Stadium, London (90,000)
Match 50: Winner Match 47 v Winner Match 48 – Wembley Stadium, London (90,000)
Match 51: Winner Match 49 v Winner Match 50 – Wembley Stadium, London (90,000)
In summary, the only city Wales will definitely not be visiting is Dublin, but a plethora of glamorous locations remain a possibility, depending on how far Giggs can take his exciting group of players.
If the Manchester United legend can repeat the works of his predecessor, Chris Coleman, Wales will be ending the tournament with a trip across the Prince of Wales Bridge to Wembley, where they have only ever played once before, in 2011.