Euro 2020 qualifier: Slovakia v Wales
Venue:Date: Thursday, 10 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Daniel James was playing his fifth minute of competitive international football when he scored the goal that gave Wales their most notable result in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Six-and-a-half months on from his winner against Slovakia, the then-Swansea City star is a regular.

Not only that, he has established himself as a key member of the national side.

As ’ team get set for the return fixture against Slovakia, they will look to James – along with the likes of Gareth Bale and Harry Wilson – to provide enough attacking threat to deliver the win Wales crave.

Giggs says Thursday night’s game in Trnava is not must-win, but with Croatia to come in Cardiff on Sunday, James and company are well aware that there is little margin for error if they are to finish in Group E’s top two.

“They are two massive games,” the United winger says.

“Even though we beat Slovakia at home, it is going to be very tough going there. But if we can win, it would be a big statement.”

The home victory over the Slovaks in March was a sign of Wales’ intent, as they began their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in ideal fashion.

Making his first international start and first competitive appearance for Wales, James struck a maiden goal for his country inside five minutes.

Having missed chances to extend their lead, Wales held on for three points despite some late Slovakian pressure.

Yet that opening triumph was followed by defeats in Croatia and Hungary, meaning the pressure was on as Wales scraped past Azerbaijan last month.

The pressure remains. Wales are fourth in the group, four points behind leaders Croatia and three adrift of Slovakia and Hungary.

After this week’s games, Wales end their qualifying campaign with a trip to Azerbaijan and a home fixture against the Hungarians in November.

Giggs’ men must put together a run of impressive results if they are to get over the line – and James believes they have the quality to do it.

“We are confident. We have a great group of lads and we know what we are capable of,” he says.

“We have got quite a young squad, but I wouldn’t say that fazes us at all. The gaffer has given everyone chances and we have grasped them.

“In every camp we are learning and getting better as a team. For us it’s about showing that even if you have a young squad, you can do good things.”

It is almost a year to the day since James began to show his potential at Swansea.

It was just his third Championship start – and Graham Potter’s team were beaten at home by a struggling Ipswich side – but James’ dazzling performance on the left flank was a sign of things to come.

Following his £15m summer move to , James has been one of the stars of United’s difficult start to 2019-20.

At 21, James will be one of the younger players in Wales’ starting XI in Slovakia, yet he feels at home in the red jersey.

“I think I’ve grown into the Welsh team really well since that game against Slovakia,” he says.

“A year ago I wasn’t really playing for Swansea, but everything just happened so quickly. It is just a case of how you grasp that.

“If you’d said to me a year ago that I would now be playing regularly for and Wales I’d have said: ‘Don’t be silly’.

“But things happen so quickly in football and you have to be ready for anything.

“It is a very proud moment for me to be playing for my country every time I’m picked. There is going to be pressure this week, but I’m used to that now.”

James is without a goal in his last seven games for club and country, but turned heads by netting three times in his first four appearances in a United shirt.

Daniel James celebrates

He describes his form as “all right”, adding: “It’s still early. I am thinking: can I go and get more goals or more assists?”

James scored his second international goal during his early-season purple patch, with his sweet strike giving Wales a friendly victory over Belarus on 9 September.

Another goal or two this week would be most welcome as Wales attempt to qualify for a second successive European Championship.

A teenage James watched as a fan as Chris Coleman’s team enjoyed that sparkling run to the last four at Euro 2016.

“I was in Marbella at the time. I was enjoying myself out there with my family,” he recalls.

“I remember watching it and it was amazing for Wales to get to so far.

“But the expectation now is to get back to the Euros. That’s what we want and it would be amazing for me and the rest of the players to experience that.

“It’s a different batch of players now. A lot of the squad have been there and done it, but this batch want to do it now.”


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