‘A fourth possible finals? I never imagined it’

Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Tuesday, 26 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text
Highlights: Match of the Day Wales, BBC One Wales from 22:40 and later on demand

Captain Ben Davies says he could never have imagined being on the brink of a fourth major tournament with Wales.

Wales aim to reach their third consecutive European Championship by beating Poland in their Euro 2024 play-off final in Cardiff on Tuesday.

The Tottenham defender, 30, is one of four survivors from Chris Coleman’s squad that qualified for Euro 2016, reaching the semi-finals in France.

“Welsh football was in a pretty sticky place before Euro 2016,” said Davies.

“I remember before that campaign we felt that would be our best opportunity to qualify and I think breaking down that barrier [was important] and showing it is possible that if you put just a run of a couple of games together then qualification is there in your hands.

“We have shown we have big players stepping up in big moments over and over and a chance to do it four times is something I probably never imagined happening.”

Since the historic 2016 qualification – Wales’ first major tournament finals since the World Cup in 1958 – Davies has been an integral part of the squad which reached the delayed Euro 2020 finals and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Now he and Wales have the big stage in their sights once more.

Goalkeepers Danny Ward and Wayne Hennessey also played in the France finals, along with Cardiff City midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who is now the squad captain but likely to be on the bench against Poland.

When Davies leads out Robert Page’s side, he will earn his 86th cap, moving him to fifth in the Wales all-time appearance list, alongside Ashley Williams, the man who led Wales in 2016.

Reflecting on his past successes, Davies said: “They have all been special in their own way and this is no different. We have worked hard this time and it’s been a bit of a transition having lost someone like Gareth [Bale], who has brought so much to the squad.

“So if we can get there this time it’s a real team effort and something we will be really proud of.”

Though Wales have had to integrate a new generation of players to carry the mantle passed on by the likes of Bale and Joe Allen, Davies believes qualifying for the World Cup via play-off wins over Austria and Ukraine in 2022 will hold them in good stead to face Poland.

He said: “Most of them played in the game where most of that experience came from. Beating Ukraine in the last play-off was the most high-stress game with the biggest stakes on it.

“I thought everyone handled themselves well. That is what we pride ourselves on. We have discipline, we have energy, we have passion, but overall we are a proper team.”

The play-off final has to be decided on the night and could give Wales their first taste of extra time and possibly a penalty shootout.

Davies said the Welsh preparations had taken that possibility into account, especially as the outcome could be decided on penalties.

“Let’s hope it does not get there [to penalties],” he said. “We have been practising all week. I don’t know what the line-up is, but we seem to have 11 pretty good ones at the moment.”

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