Twenty3’s Tactics Truck: Wales ready for final step in Poland play-off clash

Wales are just one game away from reaching a third successive major tournament.

Rob Page’s side beat Finland 4-1 last week to set up a decisive Euro 2024 qualifier against Poland, who eased past Estonia in their match.

And the Dragons will have home advantage at the Cardiff City Stadium, as they look to book their place in Germany this summer.

We’ve delved into the Twenty3 Toolbox to assess how Wales can overcome Poland.

Keep it tight

Wales have, for several years now, been based on solid foundations.

A back five and a rigid shape out of possession — as shown in the below average positions graphic — means they are often difficult to break down. That has been no different in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Page’s team have conceded 11 goals in nine games so far, with four of those coming in an uncharacteristic home defeat to Armenia last June.

Croatia and Turkey were both frustrated in Cardiff, while Finland, despite seeing plenty of the ball, fell victim to Wales’ ability to counter-attack at pace after soaking up pressure.

With an xG conceded of 1.14 per 90 minutes, the Dragons are not impermeable. But with Joe Rodon in fine form for Leeds and Ben Davies vastly experienced at the top level, they will be confident of keeping Poland marksman Robert Lewandowski relatively quiet.

Break at pace

As mentioned, Wales are a constant threat on the break.

Poland, having watched their upcoming opponents sweep Finland aside, will be wary of allowing the hosts space in attack.

The trio of David Brooks, Harry Wilson and Brennan Johnson are quick and direct, while Neco Williams is a threat from left wing-back and Dan James provides even more pace from the bench.

Williams, who scored a superb free-kick against Finland, ranks sixth in Euro 2024 qualifying for attacking duels won (52).

Poland will hope the speed of Arsenal defender Jakub Kiwior is enough to deal with Wales’ frontline. There is a noticeable lack of pace aside from the 24-year-old, though.

That will certainly be an area Wales look to exploit.

Control midfield

Birmingham youngster Jordan James and Ethan Ampadu have formed a promising partnership in midfield.

The latter has excelled as a defender for Leeds in the Championship this season, but is equally comfortable in a more advanced role.

Both players play a key role out of possession, protecting the back three and ensuring no gaps appear for opposition creators to exploit.

But their composure on the ball has been particularly impressive, and they will need to be influential again as they come up against the quality of Napoli star Piotr Zieliński.

In Euro 2024 qualifying, Ampadu has averaged 31.56 completed passes per 90, with an accuracy of 88.83%.

James, meanwhile, has averaged 26.96 completed passes per 90 at a success rate of 86.29%.

Wales do not typically dominate with possession, but their midfield duo can establish control with their discipline and composure on and off the ball.

Wily wing-backs

Williams, as mentioned, is a real attacking threat for Wales down the left flank.

His driving forward runs often mean opposite number Connor Roberts is more conservative.

Both players will need to be alert against a Poland team that typically line up in a 3-5-2 shape, with wing-backs Przemysław Frankowski and Nicola Zalewski key players.

The former scored his side’s opening goal against Estonia, while the latter provided the assist for Zieliński’s strike.

Roberts, who has become a mainstay on the right under Page, has been successful with 50 defensive actions in qualifying so far. 

He and Williams will both be important figures for Wales in attack and defence, in what promises to be a close and hard-fought encounter in Cardiff.

All graphics in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.