The Euro 2020 subordinate debate could be a defining one for Wales and their manager Ryan Giggs.
After scaling new heights with their run to a Euro 2016 semi-finals, Wales missed out on this year’s World Cup in pessimistic fashion.
Now a era of players rated by many as a best in Wales’ story embark on their query to validate for what would usually be a country’s third vital tournament.
They are underneath vigour to do their potential, and their new manager faces a identical weight of expectation.
It has been a churned start to Giggs’ reign given his appointment in January, with a former Wales and Manchester United captain losing 5 of his 9 matches in charge.
But with 5 of those fixtures friendlies and a other 4 Nations League matches, many have indifferent settlement on a 45-year-old’s managerial credentials.
Now Giggs faces his initial subordinate campaign, his impulse of truth.
“I’m looking brazen to it. we put a lot of vigour on myself and a players in a Nations League,” he told BBC Sport Wales.
“You learn a lot from defeat, for me and not usually a players, things we could have finished better. Hopefully that will mount us in good stead.”
Wales now know who they will need to overcome to validate for Euro 2020, carrying been grouped with Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Azerbaijan during Sunday’s pull in Dublin.
So what can Wales design from their opponents?
Fifa universe ranking: 4
Last meeting: Wales 1-2 Croatia (World Cup qualifier, 26 Mar 2013, Swansea)
As World Cup runners-up, Croatia will be strenuous favourites to win Group E.
They exaggerate one of a world’s best midfields – including Fifa’s universe actor of a year Luka Modric – and will be approaching to plea for Euro 2020 itself if they qualify.
Croatia have faced Wales on 4 occasions, winning 3 and sketch once.
“Everybody wants to kick us so it won’t be easy, though we’ll be ready,” manager Zlatko Dalic told BBC Sport Wales.
“Wales will be a formidable opponent. Gareth Bale is one of a best players in Europe.
“There is vigour on us given we are favourites. We contingency be really clever given it is a brief competition. I’ll always pull my players.”
Fifa universe ranking: 27
Last meeting: Wales 2-1 Slovakia (Euro 2016 organisation stage, 11 Jun 2016, Bordeaux)
Slovakia were Wales’ opening opponents during Euro 2016, a compare that was memorably won by Hal Robson-Kanu’s late scuff.
The dual sides also met during their Euro 2008 subordinate campaign, Slovakia thrashing Wales 5-1 in Cardiff before John Toshack’s side gained punish with a 5-2 delight in Trnava.
Considering a likes of Serbia and Turkey were also in Pot 3, Wales might be comparatively relieved to have been drawn with a Slovakian side who, like them, unsuccessful to validate for a World Cup.
“We know them from a final integrate of years,” says Giggs.
“We’ve seen that we can’t take any diversion for postulated in general football, no matter who you’re playing, differently we come unstuck.”
Fifa universe ranking: 51
Last meeting: Wales 2-0 Hungary (Friendly, 10 Feb 2005, Cardiff)
Like Wales, Hungary were an astonishing success story during Euro 2016 as they astonished a contingency to strech a second round, where they were beaten by Wales’ quarter-final victims Belgium.
Since then, however, Hungary have struggled and found themselves in Pot 4 for a Euro 2020 subordinate draw.
They have enjoyed a small some-more success lately, carrying won their past dual matches underneath new manager Marco Rossi, who was allocated in June.
“I can't contend if I’m happy or unfortunate given it’s a kind of organisation we expected,” a Italian told BBC Sport Wales.
“On paper, Croatia and Wales are improved than us, though one thing is paper and one thing is a field.
“We’ll come to be rival and we’ll arrive during a matches in a best probable condition.
“If we play during 100%, we have a chance. We are also propitious given Ryan Giggs is not personification for Wales given he is coaching them!”
Fifa universe ranking: 107
Last meeting: Azerbaijan 0 Wales 1 (World Cup qualifier, 6 Jun 2009, Baku)
Azerbaijan are informed opponents for Wales, carrying been drawn opposite any other in 3 apart subordinate campaigns given 2002.
Although Wales have won 5 of their 6 meetings, their 1-1 pull in Baku in 2004 – a usually time Wales have conceded a idea opposite Azerbaijan – will offer as a warning opposite complacency.
Giggs was among a scorers when Wales kick Azerbaijan 4-0 in front of a ability throng of 72,500 during what was afterwards famous as Millennium Stadium in 2003.
He also played in a 2002 win in a Azerbaijani collateral Baku, that will be one of a horde cities for Euro 2020.
“Travel-wise it [the group] is good. Azerbaijan is a bit of a trek, though it’s got good facilities, good hotels,” pronounced Giggs.
“We’ll do the task on Hungary and Azerbaijan.”
Wales v Slovakia, Sunday 24 Mar (14:00)
Croatia v Wales, Saturday 8 Jun (14:00)
Hungary v Wales, Tuesday 11 Jun (19:45)
Wales v Azerbaijan, Friday 6 Sep (19:45)
Slovakia v Wales, Thursday 10 Oct (19:45)
Wales v Croatia, Sunday 13 Oct (19:45)
Azerbaijan v Wales, Saturday 16 Nov (17:00)
Wales v Hungary, Tuesday 19 Nov (19:45)