Joe Rodon counting on Euros experience as Wales face off with foes Finland

By Sports Desk March 19, 2024

Joe Rodon believes Wales can count on their tournament experience against Finland to progress in the Euro 2024 play-offs.

Wales are aiming to qualify for a third successive European Championship and a fourth major tournament in five over the next week.

The winners of Thursday’s semi-final in Cardiff will host either Estonia or Poland on March 26 to decide a place at Euro 2024 in Germany.

Rodon said: “We lost superstars like Gareth Bale and Joe Allen (after the 2022 World Cup) and it was always going to be difficult for the group in transition.

“I don’t think I can speak highly enough of Gaz and Joe. They are icons of Welsh football and the game as well, and it’s going to have an impact on any team.

“But we’ve got players coming up to 50 caps now who have been around quite a bit and have that experience in tournaments.

“It’s not new to us that we’re in situations like this. There’s a really good balance in the group and a good amount of experience.”

Wales are clear favourites against Finland, with home advantage, recent head-to-head results and superior FIFA world ranking all on their side.

Finland are ranked 60th in the world – 31 places below Wales – and lost two Nations League ties to the Dragons in 2020, 1-0 in Helsinki and 3-1 in Cardiff.

But Rodon, 26, is taking nothing for granted, saying: “As a group we never look at it like that.

“We always see ourselves as underdogs in every game we go into.

“But being in Cardiff is always going to help us. The Red Wall has always been our 12th man and that is going to push us on to the end.”

On-loan Leeds defender Rodon has often joined up with Wales on the back of limited game time, be it at parent club Tottenham or Rennes where he had a mixed spell last season.

But that is not the case now as Rodon has established himself as an Elland Road regular and helped Daniel Farke’s side surge to the top of the Sky Bet Championship.

“Over the last couple of years it’s been sticky and I’ve not had the game time I’ve wanted,” said Rodon.

“But I settled in quickly and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been playing every week and that’s only going to give you more confidence.

“I’m in a really good place physically and mentally. But it’s not just at Leeds (where Wales trio Connor Roberts, Daniel James and Ethan Ampadu are team-mates), most of the players are players are playing regularly.

“For Wales that’s really important and maybe the first time we’ve had that for a while. It’s only going to help.”

Rodon will be sporting a black eye against Finland after colliding with Leeds team-mate Junior Firpo.

He has also been in the wars with a series of cuts to his face and Wales manager Rob Page, a no-nonsense central defender in his playing days, was quick to notice that in camp.

“The manager said I look like a proper centre-half now, I’ll take that,” said Rodon, who admitted there has been wisecracks between Leeds’ Welsh quartet and the club’s Finland midfielder Glen Kamara ahead of the play-off.

“We’ve have bantered him a little bit,” said Rodon.

“Four Welshmen against one Finn, so the numbers have been bit unfair, but the boss (Farke) has teamed up with Glen a little bit.”

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