Wales qualified for the Elite Round of the UEFA European Under-19 Championships this week, and Jordan Evans and George Williams both featured, with the latter playing every minute of their three games.
The pair were selected to represent the Dragons as they went up against host nation Georgia, Moldova and the Netherlands in Group 11 of the initial qualifying round, with the top two advancing into the Elite stages.
Things did not begin well for Wales, as their campaign kicked off with a 5-1 trouncing by Georgia, with goalkeeper Billy O’Brien sent off just before the hour mark. Evans was the unfortunate man to be sacrificed to allow the substitute keeper to enter the action.
But they dramatically improved in the second game, holding the Netherlands to a goalless draw. Wales actually had more attempts on target in the match and so were well worth a point as they kept their qualification hopes alive.
Those hopes were slim, though, as they would need to beat Moldova in their final match and hope Georgia defeated the Netherlands in the other game, in addition to needing a significant swing in goal difference.
With nothing to lose, Wales started brightly and took the lead early on when a Williams corner was turned in by Owain Jones. Two more goals followed before half-time, and they didn’t let up following the interval, either. Two strikes in five minutes put Wales 5-0 up, before a late effort from Chike Kandi made it six; it was a goal that would prove to be incredibly significant.
Elsewhere in the group, the Netherlands had been defeated 2-1 in a tense affair which left them level on points with Wales. Both sides had a goal difference of +2, so it came down to goals scored to decide who would occupy second spot behind Georgia. And, with Wales scoring seven to the Netherlands’ four, Williams and Evans will be the ones competing in the Elite Round.
“We didn’t get off to the best of starts, losing to Georgia,” Evans admitted to fulhamfc.com. “Then, having drawn against Holland, we needed to get a few goals on the board against Moldova.
“The 6-0 win took us through, and I think we deserved it too, because we played really well. We’re now through to the Elite Group Stage and we’ll find out who our opponents are in the next couple of days.
“It’s exciting, and it would be great to qualify for the finals which will be held in Hungary in July. It’s an honour to represent my country and it would be great to represent them on a stage like the Under-19 European Championship.”