Jordan James has revealed how a passionate speech from actor Rhys Ifans inspired Wales to a Euro 2024 play-off victory over Finland.

Ifans rose to worldwide fame in the 1999 comedy film hit Notting Hill – alongside Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts – and is also known for roles in Harry Potter and Marvel’s Spider-Man movies.

The 56-year-old Welsh actor spoke to Rob Page’s squad before their 4-1 play-off semi-final win against Finland on Thursday, telling them that “nothing unifies us in the way you do and makes us safe to show our pride and our sorrow”.

“It was unbelievable,” said Birmingham midfielder James. “I got goosebumps when he was talking.

“All the lads would say the same thing. It really touched the heart and showed how much this means to the fans and every Welsh person around the world.

“To have the backing of the fans is unbelievable and it helps us a lot.”

Wales return to the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday to play Poland with a place at Euro 2024 at stake.

Victory would see Wales qualify for a third-successive European Championship and a fourth major tournament out of five, having not played in one between 1958 and 2016.

“We want to get to these big tournaments. We’re one game away and we can’t wait for it,” said James.

“The next game is massive, for everyone and the whole country. The manager told us to trust ourselves. We are good players.

“If we trust ourselves, play together, work hard for each other and use the fans to our advantage then it makes it easier. We can always get to the other side.”

James does not turn 20 until July but the teenager – who was heavily linked with Serie A club Atalanta during the January transfer window – has become a mainstay of the Wales midfield alongside Ethan Ampadu over the last six months.

He will win his 10th cap against Poland, but admits he did not even consider the prospect of playing at Euro 2024 during the last European Championship, three years ago.

“I was at home watching that on TV with my parents,” said James. “I wasn’t even hoping I’d be at the next one. It wasn’t even in my head, so to be here and one game away is unbelievable.”

On playing alongside Ampadu, James added: “Ethan’s a top player, I’m inspired to be like him. To get 50 caps at 23 is something that I want to do.

“Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps and have the career that he is going to have.

“The more games you play with each other the better you are going to be.

“I’m starting to know what he is going to do with the ball so I can react off that.

“We work really well with each other which is really good.”

Rob Page insists Wales need their A-game to eliminate Finland and make the Euro 2024 play-off final.

Wales start as clear favourites in Cardiff on Thursday to beat opponents ranked 60th in the world – 31 places below them – and progress to a home play-off final against Estonia or Poland.

Being favourites is a position that tends to sit uncomfortably with Wales, and hopes of making Germany automatically this summer were severely damaged by them taking only one point from unfancied Armenia in their qualifying group.

“The biggest learning curve for me over the last 12 months, irrespective of who we are playing against, is we have to bring our A-game,” Page said at his pre-match press conference.

“We have to deliver the same values that gets us success, then the results will take care of themselves.

“Our record at home is exceptional and we’re in good form at this moment in time.

“Most of the squad are out playing football for their clubs, training has been excellent.

“We have gone through similar experiences with the pressure of the (World Cup) play-off situations against Austria and Ukraine, and the difficulty surrounding that.

“We are all quite relaxed but not underestimating the challenge. There’s everything to play for but we’re fully prepared for it.”

The Wales squad has evolved since a disappointing 2022 World Cup in Qatar when they finished bottom of their group with one point from three games.

Gareth Bale, their talismanic captain, retired after a glittering career for club and country, while other long-serving players such as Joe Allen, Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams also left the scene.

Brennan Johnson, Harry Wilson and Jordan James are among those who have taken on greater responsibility during a Euro 2024 campaign when the Armenia lows were at the opposite end of the spectrum in achievement and performance in taking four points off Croatia.

Page said: “We have lost one of the world’s best players with Gareth.

“There has been enough in the squad to put us in a position where we are two wins away from qualifying for the fourth time (out of five major tournaments).

“Of course he’s going to be missed on and off the pitch but it gives others an opportunity, like Harry, probably a bit-part player when Gareth was at his peak.

“Now H has made a stake for a starting position again and, with what he’s doing at club level, has earned that right.

“Others have taken that opportunity with both hands and are relishing that challenge.”

Page says qualifying for the finals in Germany this summer will be satisfying as it will allow Welsh football to invest in the future and keep moving forward.

He said: “Against all the odds we got to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

“We have invested money and given ourselves the opportunity to qualify. If we qualify for the Euros, we hope it is forward two steps.

“We have learned from the mistakes at the World Cup. We have a plan and a Plan B – and cover every eventuality.

“Once I’ve delivered that to the players then I can relax and rest at ease that they have all the information.”

Ethan Ampadu has been described as a future Wales captain by national-team boss Rob Page.

Ampadu is set to win his 50th cap in Thursday’s Euro 2024 play-off semi-final against Finland at the tender age of 23.

Barring any future injury issues, the versatile Leeds player seems certain to break Gareth Bale’s record of 111 caps.

“He’s only 23 and it seems like he’s been around forever because of the age (17) when he got his debut,” Page said of Ampadu, who has started 42 of Leeds’ 43 games this term since making a £7million switch from Chelsea.

“He’s a future Wales captain 100 per cent because he’s already captained Leeds and that’s a big club.

“He’s a model pro on and off the pitch. He doesn’t get carried away with things, his attitude is first-class, and that’s why he has the Leeds armband.

“It is a big responsibility but they wouldn’t have given it to him if they didn’t think he could cope with it.”

Wales welcome Finland to Cardiff with the winners hosting Estonia or Poland five days later to decide a place at Euro 2024 this summer.

The Dragons have no fewer than four Leeds players in their ranks with Ampadu joined by Connor Roberts, Daniel James and Joe Rodon.

Ampadu has forged an outstanding centre-back partnership with Tottenham loanee Rodon as Championship high-fliers Leeds have stepped up their push for a return to the Premier League.

But Page has recently used Ampadu in a central midfield axis with Birmingham teenager Jordan James.

“Of course you’re going to think about it (playing Ampadu in defence), but when I’ve got a three that are playing well I don’t like making changes for the sake of it,” said Page, who has been an Elland Road regular this season.

“I do like Ethan as a centre-back because he keeps you high up the pitch. You can play a high line because he is not worried about pace in behind because of his athleticism and aggression.

“On the ball we’ve needed that physicality and him and JJ (James) have struck up such a strong partnership.

“It’s great to have that luxury that he can play more than one position and Joe can do the same.

“When Locks (Tom Lockyer) came in and played in the middle, Joe went to the right of the three and did really well.

“That’s given me food for thought as both of them can play a multitude of positions.

“He and Joe have struck up a good partnership keeping clean sheets, but Ethan’s just as good playing as a six in midfield as he is at the back.”

The Leeds quartet will be the last players to arrive at the Wales camp as Daniel Farke’s side meet Millwall on Sunday.

Page admits the 3pm kick-off at The Den has altered his pre-Finland planning, saying: “I tried to get a welcome meeting for Sunday night and show all the positives from the campaign.

“We will have to do that on Monday morning now because of the delay in some of the players coming in.

“We just hope everyone turns up on Sunday night because they are in such good form.”

Birmingham manager Tony Mowbray saluted an “amazing achievement” after his team made it two home wins in a week by coming from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.

Koji Miyoshi grabbed an 80th-minute winner after Jordan James cancelled out Jack Clarke’s 22nd-minute lead on the hour.

It meant City have recorded their first back-to-back home successes since October and they have climbed to 15th, six points above the Sky Bet Championship drop zone.

“I’m very proud of the group and their desire and determination to work really hard for each other on the back of a landscape of where we are in the league,” said Mowbray.

“After not winning many home games this season, it’s an amazing achievement for them.”

Despite the gap, Mowbray refuses to accept City are safe.

“We’re in a predicament and we’re still in the same position after a couple of teams won,” he added.

“We’re still six points away from trouble but it’s given us a bit of confidence and momentum and the belief that we can win against anyone at home.

“This is what the team needs to know to have that confidence and belief in themselves.

“The team is fighting hard for each other but this was about the supporters and the players on the pitch.

“We gifted Sunderland the first goal but we found a way to score two goals.”

Several supporter incentives meant Birmingham were watched by 27,449 – the biggest crowd at St Andrew’s for more than seven years.

Mowbray said he used the home crowd to spur on the players as they took the game to Sunderland after a lacklustre first-half performance.

“The message at half-time was ‘we will score, and if we score one, this place will take off and we’ll score two or three’, they made it happen,” he added.

“Days like this with a full stadium against a good team with a big support following them show that we can come out on top and win, and we did that together.”

Clarke intercepted Seung-Ho Paik’s square pass to Marc Roberts then raced on to coolly slot past John Ruddy.

James equalised after Miyoshi had two shots blocked when Tyler Roberts’ angled drive had been parried by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.

Miyoshi prodded home ahead of Patterson after reacting quickest to Jay Stansfield’s deflected cross.

Sunderland have not won on their travels since Boxing Day and are currently 10th, five points off the top six.

Their head coach Michael Beale admitted: “Unless we improve our away form it (play-offs) is going to be difficult.

“We have to find a way of getting positive away results because it’s nowhere good enough.

“We’re certainly not giving up on anything with the amount of games we’ve got to go.

“But our away form all season has been a concern.”

Tony Mowbray celebrated back-to-back home wins against his most recent former clubs after Birmingham came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.

Koji Miyoshi capped a magnificent comeback by City after Jordan James equalised on the hour to make it two home victories in five days after they beat Blackburn 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Jack Clarke gave Sunderland the lead in the 22nd minute with his 15th goal of the season as the Black Cats dominated the first half.

But it was a different story in the second half as Blues, watched by 27,449 – the biggest crowd at St Andrew’s for more than seven years when 29,656 saw a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on October 30, 2016 – looked far hungrier.

Sunderland midfielder Jobe Bellingham – making his first return to St Andrew’s since leaving in the summer – beat Cody Drameh on the left but his cross was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Pierre Ekwah sent a rising drive over the bar then Mason Burstow seemed to have a golden chance to score when he latched on to Romaine Mundle’s deflected cross, but the ball hit his heel and sailed harmlessly over.

Mundle had the first on-target effort but his 25-yard drive arrowed straight at Ruddy.

Birmingham’s first chance was a blockbuster as Jay Stansfield crashed a full-blooded 25-yard volley goalwards only for goalkeeper Anthony Patterson to tip it over after Sunderland partly cleared a corner.

But the visitors’ bright start was rewarded when they took the lead.

Seung-Ho Paik’s square pass to Marc Roberts was easily intercepted by Clarke, who raced on to coolly slot past Ruddy into the bottom corner of the net.

Birmingham continued to give the ball away in dangerous situations and Paik was booked for catching Ekwah late, Bellingham curling over the resulting 20-yard free-kick.

Sunderland went close to a second goal in the 42nd minute.

Mundle got the wrong side of Krystian Bielik but his curling shot – aiming for the same corner of the net as Clarke did for the goal – was turned aside by Ruddy at full stretch.

Birmingham looked a different proposition after the break, however, and their improvement was rewarded with the equaliser on the hour.

Midfielder James slotted home after Miyoshi had two shots blocked – the first by Trai Hume on the line – after Tyler Roberts’ angled drive had been parried by Patterson.

Sunderland had the ball in the net again in the 68th minute – but any joy was short-lived as Burstow’s header from Clarke’s free-kick was ruled offside.

Birmingham’s revival was in full swing when Miyoshi put the hosts ahead with 10 minutes of normal time to go.

The Japan midfielder prodded home ahead of Patterson after reacting quickest to Stansfield’s deflected cross for his fifth goal of the season.

Substitute Jordan James rescued a 2-2 draw for Tony Mowbray’s Birmingham as the battle of the new managers ended all square with Luke Williams’ Swansea at St Andrew’s.

Harry Darling put the visitors ahead before Siriki Dembele quickly equalised only for Jamal Lowe to restore the Swans’ lead after the break before Wales international James drove home in the 95th minute.

Darling also hit the bar but Blues wasted several chances as the hosts ushered in the Mowbray era after Wayne Rooney’s departure.

Swansea, in former Notts County manager Williams’ second match in charge, are unbeaten in four, while Blues are now without a win in seven including the FA Cup.

Birmingham, showing five changes from the 3-0 defeat at Leeds, pressed from the kick-off and the lively Dembele created two half-chances.

Koji Miyoshi’s low attempt sailed narrowly wide from 16 yards, then the latter’s cross hit Matt Grimes to give Scott Hogan the chance to launch a spectacular overhead kick that flew straight at Carl Rushworth.

Blues went even closer to taking the lead in the 25th minute after Bashir Humphreys was dispossessed by Jay Stansfield.

From the on-loan Fulham forward’s cross, Dembele’s shot was blocked by Rushworth then Krystian Bielik’s follow-up was diverted away by a defender.

Swansea punished Blues to take a 36th-minute lead with their first serious effort on goal.

Defender Darling stole in unmarked to power home a bullet header from Josh Tymon’s corner.

But their advantage was short-lived as Dembele equalised with a fine solo goal on 38 minutes.

The left winger sprinted away from his marker before curling a low right-footed shot beyond Rushworth and into the far bottom corner of the net for his sixth goal of the season.

Birmingham ended the first half as they started it – on the attack. Stansfield’s fierce follow-up was deflected behind after Hogan got in front of Rushworth forcing him to drop Miyoshi’s curling attempt.

The hosts should have gone ahead within a minute of the restart.

The inspired Dembele darted clean through for a one-on-one with Rushworth who denied him, after Hogan flicked on Dion Sanderson’s pass.

Swansea almost scored again with two quick chances before regaining the lead.

Darling’s looping header from a deep free-kick crashed off the bar then goalkeeper John Ruddy blocked Lowe’s angled shot.

Lowe was not to be denied again though after getting ahead of Sanderson to poke home Tymon’s left-wing cross in the 59th minute for his sixth goal of the season.

Birmingham looked dead and buried after tailing off in the last half-hour but, out of nowhere, James produced a moment of magic when he drilled home from 25 yards after a short pass from fellow substitute Juninho Bacuna.

Plymouth director of football Neil Dewsnip was delighted with managerless Argyle’s comeback from 3-1 down to record a 3-3 Championship draw with Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham.

Despite being reduced to 10 men by the early second-half dismissal of Krystian Bielik, City raced into 3-1 lead thanks to goals by Jay Stansfield, Jordan James and Junino Bacuna, who set-up City’s two first-half goals.

Argyle skipper Joe Edwards’ late first-half goal made it 2-1 before Ben Waine netted ahead of Morgan Whittaker’s superb 86th-minute leveller.

Dewsnip said: “I really enjoyed the experience, am really proud of the players, the supporters – they are really fantastic – and really proud to lead the team.

“We came back from two goals down and nearly sneak it at the end. We conceded three goals so we know we have got a bit of work to do.

“At the start of the game, the first period was difficult for the players, they have had some week because they have lost a manager they think highly of.

“We said to the players at half-time ‘we are still in the game and we will start again and go from there’.

“Joe (Edwards) was strong leader in the dressing room, we supported them to put out that performance.

“We nearly got the winner. What a moment that would have been.

“We are going to win one eventually away from home so why not at Cardiff (on Boxing Day).”

Former boss Steven Schumacher left Plymouth to take charge of Stoke earlier this week but Dewsnip admitted he was not to right man to fill the vacancy on a full-time basis.

He added: “It feels a bit strange; but I am not going to be the next manager, we are looking for a manager and have started that process and will hopefully get someone very soon.”

Rooney took the positives from earning a point, saying: “We looked really dangerous. We go 2-0 up and a mistake before half-time lets them back in it.

“Then the red card just after half-time – which I don’t think is a red card – was a big moment in the game which makes it more difficult for us.

“The lads put a real shift in and we went 3-1 up. Under pressure we failed to see the game out. We are all disappointed in the end not to win but a positive is that we got something.

“I thought with the personnel of the players we had on the pitch for us to stay in the game, at 2-1, I felt we could be a threat on the break and we get the third goal from that. We just didn’t hold on that 3-1 lead for long enough.

“Then the crowd got behind them and it was a good finish from Morgan to make it 3-3. We were getting blocks in and defending the box well and limited Plymouth to shots from the edge of the box which we were OK with.

“Morgan is Plymouth’s most dangerous player and he only needed that half-opportunity and he gets the equaliser.

“We know Plymouth are a good team, they move the ball well, but we felt we would get opportunities at goal if we had a good shape about us in our attacking half.

“We felt we could cause them problems, which we did. The positive is that we didn’t lose the game.”

Wayne Rooney collected his first win as Birmingham manager after a 2-1 comeback win against the Sky Bet Championship’s bottom club Sheffield Wednesday at St Andrew’s.

Substitute Jordan James’s grabbed the 82nd-minute winner after Juninho Bacuna’s 48th-minute equaliser cancelled out George Byers’s opener four minutes earlier.

Victory was Rooney’s first win in English football since April last year when his Derby side won 2-0 at Blackpool, while new Wednesday boss Danny Rohl has now lost five of his first six games.

Birmingham bounced back after the break after Wednesday had been the better side in the first half.

Wednesday started better and the lively Mallik Wilks dispossessed goalkeeper John Ruddy before firing just wide.

The hosts’ first chance came when Bacuna unleashed a 25-yard drive that was deflected inches off target by Bambo Diaby.

But they struggled to create opportunities for the rest of the half as Wednesday pinned them back.

Birmingham seemed to be their own worst enemies and they conceded three consecutive corners, Lee Buchanan heading behind the second one after Ruddy was unable to get a firm hand to the ball.

Birmingham’s hearts were in their mouths when referee Rebecca Welch put her whistle to her lips after Josh Windass fell in the penalty area as Ethan Laird closed him down.

But, instead of blowing for a penalty, she booked the forward for diving, replays confirming the simulation.

Wednesday continued to threaten and Windass missed their best chance to date when he side-footed wide from Barry Bannan’s cross.

Birmingham were frustrated by two Wednesday challenges which resulted in bookings – Wilks for body-checking Ethan Laird after he was nutmegged then Bannan for bringing down Siriki Dembele.

The goal Wednesday had been threatening came in the 44th minute when Windass’s superb curling free-kick hit the post and Byers tapped home the rebound for his first since February.

But the visitors’ lead lasted just three minutes before Bacuna equalised with a half volley from 22 yards after Wednesday failed to clear Koji Miyoshi’s corner, with Dominic Iorfa and Akin Famewo getting faint touches.

Birmingham improved after the restart and Jay Stansfield’s angled drive was deflected wide off Diaby, before Buchanan curled his shot over the bar.

Blues remained on top and Dembele’s half volley brushed the side-netting.

Nothing had been seen of Wednesday’s attack until the hour until Marvin Johnson’s shot on the turn, but the substitute’s effort sailed straight at Ruddy.

But James turned into something of a super-sub when he scored the winner just four minutes after replacing Bacuna.

The Wales international rounded goalkeeper Cameron Dawson to tap home the winner when his first shot had been blocked following Stansfield’s cross.

Wales midfielder Jordan James says he knew his former Birmingham colleague Jude Bellingham was destined for stardom “from an early age”.

England international Bellingham joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund on a six-year deal on Wednesday, with the Spanish giants paying an initial 103million euros (£88.5m) for the 19-year-old.

James is a year younger than Bellingham but the pair were often team-mates in making their way through the various age groups at St Andrew’s.

Asked if he thought Bellingham would reach the top, James said: “You knew from an early age. He was a level above everyone else.

“He was the main guy and it was the same at the World Cup, he was the best player for me.

“When I joined at eight years old, I used to go up and play with him, and you could see the way he dribbles and how technically gifted he was.

“He wasn’t a big grower like me either. It was just before he turned 15 that he had his growth spurt, and now he’s turned into a man. That’s what helped him a lot.

“We’ve got different attributes, it’s hard to compare myself to someone who’s at the top already and that’s where I’m trying to get to.

“But we’ve been brought up the same way, in the same club, with the same philosophies, so hopefully I can reach that height.”

Bellingham became Birmingham’s youngest ever first-team player in July 2019 at the age of 16 years and 38 days.

James was not too far behind making his Birmingham debut at the age of 17 years and 142 days and he has already made more than 50 senior appearances.

He was born in Hereford and twice represented England Under-20s before choosing to play for the land of his father, the former Newport defender Tony.

“The opportunity was there with England and I wanted to try something new,” said James, who travelled and trained with the Wales squad at the World Cup in Qatar.

“It was nothing against Wales, I love the country to bits. The opportunity came, but I knew straight away when I stepped foot on the pitch for England it didn’t feel the same.

“My dad is Welsh through and through, he’s put it into me. When I put that Wales shirt on, something special happens.”

It certainly did in March as James had only been on the pitch a few seconds in making his Wales debut when Nathan Broadhead scored a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to deliver a 1-1 draw in Croatia.

Wales followed up that Euro 2024 qualifying bonus point by beating Latvia, and now aim to build on that promising start against Armenia and Turkey.

“The gaffer (Rob Page) has put a lot of trust in me, otherwise I wouldn’t be on the pitch in such a big game,” said James, reflecting on the Croatia draw.

“He’s really good with the young players. There’s a few of us like Luke Harris, Joe Low, Ollie Cooper, so that’s the next batch that will hopefully come through and be a part of it all.

“It’s more demanding in the seniors, there’s more eyes on you, but that’s what I’m here for.

“It’s where I wanted to get to and I’m trying to live up to it as much as possible.”

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