Wales can down Northern Ireland in friendly clash without Bale and Ramsey
Lee Gormley | March 23, 2016
Wales v Northern Ireland
- International friendly
- Thursday, March 24th
- Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
- Cardiff City Stadium
- Live on BBC Two NI and BBC Two Wales
Welsh face Northern Ireland in warm-up friendly
Two home nations bound for Euro 2016 this summer collide at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday night, as Chris Coleman’s Wales take on close rivals Northern Ireland, with the visitors having only ever prevailed on one occasion in this fixture.
The two nations have met five times and it was Northern Ireland who triumphed in their maiden match-up at the 1954 World Cup, but they have failed to win since, with Wales earning two victories and a couple of draws.
Entering their first fixture clash since a 2-0 coup in 2011, it’s the Welsh who are installed as 13/10 favourites to triumph with Coral, despite the absence of high-profile stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, while Michael O’Neill’s men are 12/5 for travelling success.
Williams wants Wales success without key duo
Unfortunately fans won’t be able to witness the mercurial talents of Real Madrid attacker Bale in Cardiff, with the world’s most expensive player reportedly set for a new contract at the Bernabeu, while Arsenal midfielder Ramsey also misses out.
The dynamic duo join James Collins, Andy King, Paul Dummett and David Edwards on the sidelines through injury, and skipper Ashley Williams wants his teammates to step up in the absence of their key stars.
“Momentum’s a big thing and we want to keep it going,” stated captain Williams. “We lost to Holland in our last game but we played very well. There were a lot of good performances from guys who came in and don’t play very much.
“Both guys (Bale and Ramsey) are important to what we’re trying to do. Everyone knows what good players they are, but we need to perform well as a team no matter who plays.
“It’s a shame Gaz and Aaron are missing the games, but on the other side some people are going to play who wouldn’t have played. The boys coming in have got something to prove because they’re trying to secure themselves a spot in the squad for the Euros.”
Vokes main man in Bale absence
Gunners ace Ramsey was on target when the two countries last met, while Bale was the goalscoring hero of a successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, but Burnley frontman Sam Vokes is set to lead the line and play a starring role here.
The forward has 10 strikes in his last 14 outings for the Championship club and is 9/2 to open proceedings on the road, while Reading’s Hal Robson-Kanu is 2/1 to dispatch anytime after spearheading Chris Coleman’s attack in qualifying.
For the visiting outfit, qualifying hero and Norwich City misfit Kyle Lafferty is 15/8 to strike anytime, with his fellow forwards Billy McKay and Josh Magennis both 2/1 to get on the scoresheet.
Despite having only ever visited Northern Ireland once in his lifetime, Kent-born QPR striker Conor Washington could be set for his national debut in green and white, having gone from part-time postman and non-league footballer to the Championship in under four years. He is 7/1 to strike last in Cardiff, a city which he lived in during his time with Newport County.
Brunt injury blow to O’Neill
As part of the international friendly action during the break from domestic duties, both teams will look to discover some form and momentum as a squad ahead of huge summers respectively.
O’Neill was hit with the news that reliant West Bromwich Albion utility man Chris Brunt will miss the tournament in France, meaning he may switch formation to accommodate Premier League defenders Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart in a back three.
Such an injury may also see Manchester United prospect Patrick McNair get some game time instead, with the Old Trafford youngster 16/1 to net anytime, while Leeds United’s Stuart Dallas (4/1 anytime) and Shane Ferguson will be hoping for minutes on the pitch.
Allen urges fringe players to take chance
Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, who is 6/1 to net anytime for the hosts, has urged his teammates to grasp their opportunity during this international break ahead of the summer, with places still up for grabs.
“We can’t wait to get to France and show the world what we can do,” stated Allen. “We face two strong teams. Two very different games, but variety is key to our preparation.
“Friendlies are a chance for players to step in, show what they can and stake a claim for a place in the Euros.”
Both Wales and Northern Ireland are heading for their first ever European Championship appearances this summer and their meeting in Cardiff is a good test for those pushing for positions in what will be historic campaigns.