Aaron Ramsey included in Wales squad to face Finland in European Championship play-off semi-finals

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Aaron Ramsey has been included in Wales’ Euro 2024 play-off squad, despite not starting a match for six months.

The 84-times capped Wales skipper suffered a knee injury in September and was out until February, making two substitute appearances for Cardiff before picking up a calf complaint.

Despite Ramsey playing only 72 minutes since September 16, manager Rob Page has named the 33-year-old midfielder in a 28-man squad as Wales seek to qualify for a third successive European Championship and fourth major tournament in five.

Page said at his press conference on Wednesday: “It’s not been ideal for Aaron. He’s had a couple of setbacks. If there’s a chance of having him involved in the squad, then I’m going to take him.

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Wales boss Rob Page says Aaron Ramsey’s return from injury is going well after he was named in the squad for their Euro 2024 play-off semi-finals.

“Irrespective of what happens at the weekend at this moment in time, he’s on the grass this week and his rehab back to full fitness has gone to plan. In the last two camps, we’ve had him in and around the squad even though he’s not been able to play a part.

“To have someone of his stature around the group regardless is beneficial for the players.”

Wales host Finland in a Euro 2024 play-off semi-final in Cardiff on March 21, with the winners at home against Estonia or Poland five days later to determine a place in Germany this summer.

Ramsey, speaking to Sky Sports on Saturday about his playing return, said: “It’s coming along. Hopefully I’ll be back out on the grass next week.

Rangers' Rabbi Matondo celebrates after scoring vs Aberdeen
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Rangers’ Rabbi Matondo has been recalled to the squad

“I’m optimistic and hopefully I’ll get back on that pitch as soon as possible. These play-off games at home are vital. We’ve had so much success of late over the last four tournaments.

“The expectation is on us now to keep qualifying for these tournaments.”

There are also recalls for Adam Davies, Charlie Savage, Dylan Levitt, Josh Low, Rabbi Matondo, Rubin Colwill and Wes Burns in an enlarged squad.

Low replaces Tom Lockyer, who played in Wales’ last Euro 2024 qualifier against Turkey in November.

Luton defender Lockyer suffered a cardiac arrest in a Premier League game at Bournemouth in December.

Reading midfielder Savage and in-form Cardiff forward Colwill join Wycombe defender Low in being promoted from Matty Jones’ under-21 squad.

Burns, Davies, Levitt and Matondo are recalled with Joe Morrell, Niall Huggins and Tom Bradshaw missing out through injury.

Wales squad to face Finland

Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Tom King, Adam Davies.

Defenders: Ben Davies, Joe Rodon, Joe Low, Chris Mepham, Ben Cabango, Neco Williams, Jay DaSilva, Connor Roberts, Wes Burns.

Midfielders: Ethan Ampadu, Josh Sheehan, Dylan Levitt, Jordan James, Charlie Savage, Harry Wilson, Aaron Ramsey, David Brooks.

Forwards: Nathan Broadhead, Rabbi Matondo, Daniel James, Liam Cullen, Rubin Colwill, Brennan Johnson, Kieffer Moore.

Ramsey inclusion not token gesture – but how fit can he be?

Sky Sports News senior reporter Geraint Hughes:

“More than a few eyebrows raised at the selection of Aaron Ramsey. Rewind six weeks and the Cardiff City manager Erol Bulut is categorically ruling Ramsey out after he suffered yet another injury setback. Just last week I was getting shaking heads from those who know within the Wales camp that any chance of Ramsey being fit enough for selection was gone.

“Ramsey’s injury issues have had a horrible impact on what he wanted to achieve at Cardiff City, but also with Wales. A knee injury picked up in training last September ruled the 33-year-old out of Wales’ October and November Euro Qualifiers. Wales just missed out on automatic qualification to Germany, they fell just short without their talismanic captain.

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Aaron Ramsey says it has been a positive season for Cardiff City and talks about the Bluebirds’ hopes of a playoff place.

“So what has happened in the last week for Wales boss Rob Page to be able to select Ramsey? Page didn’t need to pick him as a token gesture so he can be around the camp to help – Ramsey would do that anyway. He travelled to Armenia last year where most injured players would not contemplate 12 hours on a plane and 36 hours in Yerevan!

“Page is taking a risk or gamble; apply the most applicable word next week. Wales have to beat Finland on March 21. Fail to do that and the Euro dream is all over.

“Can Ramsey start that game? Surely not as he’s played barely any football in six months, but 20 or 30 minutes coming on as a substitute is maybe what Ramsey can offer Page. It’s not ideal, with a player of the ability of Ramsey you would want him to start so he can have the maximum influence on the match even if his match fitness means you have to bring him off.

“By starting, Ramsey can put Finland on the back foot and probably more importantly put the Wales players and the crowd in Cardiff on the front foot. A substitute option requires Wales to still be in the game – either it’s one of the those nervy draws at around the hour mark or Wales are trailing by a goal and need to breakthrough Finland. If Finland are out of sight, then Ramsey has zero influence on the tie.

“If Wales are out of sight, happy days! Wales win and Ramsey doesn’t need to be risked, he can get a few more days to prepare for a Euro play-off final.”

Who is in the Euro 2024 play-offs?

In Path B, Israel face a semi-final against Iceland while Bosnia and Herzegovina will host Ukraine.

Georgia take on fellow potential tournament debutants Luxembourg in Path C, while Kazakhstan travel to 2004 European champions Greece in the other semi-final of that route.

Page believes Wales have a “great opportunity” to reach Euro 2024 after being handed two possible home ties in the qualification play-offs.

Page was relieved to avoid a rematch with Ukraine, who his side beat in a play-off to qualify for last year’s World Cup, and insists Wales fear no-one in Cardiff.

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Wales manager Rob Page speaks to Sky Sports after his side drew Finland in the Euro 2024 Play-Offs and believes the Welsh fans’ will play a key part in their chances of getting through.

“We tried to forecast the draw beforehand and we weren’t too far away,” said Page, whose team could also have been paired with Iceland at the last-four stage.

“What’s important to us is that home draw in the final – we’ve got to get the job done (against Finland) first and foremost, of course we have.

“We were probably wanting to avoid Ukraine as well so I think it’s gone to plan for us.

“I don’t think any team in that group (Ukraine, Finland and Iceland) would have been wanting to play us. I was more nervous for the draw for the home tie for the final.

“The form we’re in at the minute and with the ‘Red Wall’ at home, we’ll take anyone on in Cardiff.

“It’s a great opportunity for us: we’re two wins at home away from another qualification to a major tournament. We’re hoping now for two big efforts.”

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Sky Sports’ Geraint Hughes reflects on Wales’ 1-1 draw with Turkey that sees them miss out on automatic qualification for Euro 2024

Euro 2024 play-off draw in full

Play-off semi-finals

Path A

Poland vs Estonia

Wales vs Finland

Path B

Israel vs Iceland

Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Ukraine

Path C

Georgia vs Luxembourg

Greece vs Kazakhstan

Play-offs finals

Path A: Wales/Finland vs Poland/Estonia

Path B: Bosnia-Herzegovina/Ukraine vs Israel/Iceland

Path C: Georgia/Luxembourg vs Greece/Kazakhstan

Wales had automatic qualification in their hands heading into the final two games, but ultimately fell short with closing 1-1 draws against Armenia and Turkey. Croatia and Turkey qualified as the top two in Group D.

It has been a campaign of transition without talismanic captain Gareth Bale following his retirement in January and the loss of other key players such as midfielder Joe Allen.

Wales began well with a bonus point away to World Cup semi-finalists Croatia – courtesy of Nathan Broadhead’s stoppage-time equaliser – and a narrow home win over Latvia.

But a sour summer – back-to-beat defeats against Armenia and Turkey – would cost them dear, despite bouncing back with a 2-0 success in Latvia and a sensational 2-1 home victory over Croatia.

Wales will have home advantage for the semi-final, which will be played at Cardiff City Stadium.

That is a huge boost for Wales who have had some special nights in Cardiff in recent times, and beat both Austria and Ukraine there in the 2022 World Cup play-offs.

Wales enter the play-offs with confidence after an unbeaten six-game run of three wins and three draws.

Analysis: Dream draw for Wales

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Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes reacts to Wales’ Euro 2024 qualifying draw, which will first see them face Finland at home in the semi-final.

Sky Sports News’ senior reporter Geraint Hughes:

“This couldn’t have worked out better for Wales in terms of the play-off draw. Being at home in the semi-finals they knew as a result of their successes over the years in the Nations League campaigns, and generally in UEFA competitions.

Wales will be happy with [drawing Finland]. They did pretty well against them in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.

“It then emerged they would face the winners of Poland or Estonia. And it will be a home game again if they were to beat Finland.

“If you’re going on the form book, you would imagine it’ll be Poland. Wales’ record in competitive matches at home has been phenomenal.

“They lost to Armenia, but you have to go a long way back to find the previous competitive home defeat at home and you can expect another well-out crowd, the Red Wall.

“Wales will have the proverbial 12th man out on the pitch.”

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