Daily Mirror


Wales star James has taste for big time after crushing Kovacic and co... and now qualificat­ion for finals is only thing on his mind


Armenia v Wales Group D, Saturday, 2pm WALES midfielder Jordan James is targeting Euro 2024 qualificat­ion after enjoying the “best night of my life” against Croatia superstars Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic.

Croatia have one of the most highly regarded engine rooms in world football but they had little joy in Cardiff last month as Wales beat them 2-1 to keep their Euro 2024 dreams alive.

Wales now meet Armenia and Turkey with automatic qualificat­ion in their own hands. “It was probably the best night of my life,” said Birmingham teenager James. “It was a massive win for the country. Hopefully we can do the same in the next two games. I don’t think it gets much better than that but we’ve still got a job to do.

“We know what it means to the country to get to these big tournament­s so that’s our focus and hopefully we can do that. Coming into this camp now, we’ll look back on that Croatia game and take confidence into the next two.”

Hereford-born James, 19, was capped by England at Under-20 level but qualifies for Wales through his father Tony, who played for his home-town club Newport.

James made his debut in March – coming on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Croatia in Split – and has started the last two qualifiers, both of which Wales won.

He has now won six caps – 164 fewer than Real Madrid star Modric – and has quickly struck up an effective partnershi­p with Leeds midfielder Ethan Ampadu in Rob Page’s side. “It’s been great. As soon as I played with him the first time, we just clicked,” James said. “We just work off each other, I think you saw that against Croatia. Ethan is a brilliant player and it’s very easy to play with him. I see him as a leader and I study how he plays because he’s somewhere I want to get to. I could see him being captain one day.

“I’ve had massive trust from the gaffer at such a young age. Playing for your country, there is a risk but he took it and I’m just trying to repay him for what he’s done for me.”

Wales will secure a toptwo place in Group D by taking maximum points from games against Armenia in Yerevan on Saturday and Turkey at the Cardiff City Stadium three days later. Dropped points will leave Wales relying on favourable results elsewhere if they are to avoid the play-offs in March, when the likes of Norway, Poland and Ukraine could be lurking.

Armenia, ranked 95th in the world and 67 places below Wales, stunned Page’s side with a 4-2 Cardiff victory in June.

James (left, celebratin­g Harry Wilson’s goal against Croatia in Cardiff) said: “There is a bit of revenge on the menu because you don’t like losing. It’s not nice and we want to get one back on them.”

The good news for Wales is that bookies expect them to gain that revenge. Page’s side are odds on at 10-11 to win. Armenia are quoted at 3-1.

Wales star James battles with Kovacic in Euros qualifier in Cardiff last month
JOR GOES TO WAR Wales star James battles with Kovacic in Euros qualifier in Cardiff last month
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