Hatters chief backs Wales to reach Euros quarter-finals

Luton Town boss Nathan Jones has backed Wales to reach the quarter-finals of the European Championships this evening by seeing off the challenge of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, 25th June 2016, 12:02 pm
Updated Saturday, 25th June 2016, 1:08 pm
Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Jones has seen his fellow countrymen impress on their first appearance at a major finals since 1958, as they are through to the knock out stages, by topping a group that included England.

Now they face fellow home nations side Northern Ireland at 5pm, as Jones said: “I really fancy us against Northern Ireland.

“I’m not being disrespectful. I think we’re a better side than them, so it could set up with the likes of Belgium, which would just be unbelievable for Welsh football. It’s a credit to the job they’re doing.”

Should Wales make it past the Northern Irish, they will then come up against either Belgium or Hungary in the last eight, and Jones believes not many sides will fancy playing the Dragons, who have already beaten both Russia and Slovakia.

He added: “I don’t think there’ll be many looking to play the Welsh because they have a real togetherness, they have a solidity about them, in terms of not conceding many goals.

“It was an adventure for us, but I think with the group stages, it’s shown it’s not like a fairytale anymore.

“We’re a good side and I don’t think there are many that want to face Wales.

“We’ve been defensively strong, they have players that can hurt you, with the likes of (Gareth) Bale, the tournament’s outstanding player so far, people like Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen doing well too.

“There’s a real togetherness as well and they’re doing the country proud.

“I think Chris Coleman came in at a difficult time, he’s done a wonderful, wonderful job, so to be honest, I wouldn’t really fear anyone.”

One criticism Jones did have of the tournament though was the fact that so many teams have progressed to the next stage, as he added: “It’s been decent Euros, I just feel the format has let it down in the final group games as too many teams are playing safe as they know they can qualify.

“I’ve followed most games, and the only gripe I probably have is that as I don’t think it’s been conducive to real high risk football.

“We saw with the England game against Slovakia as anyone who has got four points goes through, so it won’t get interesting until the knock out stages.

“I think England have probably been a victim of that as I’m sure if Slovakia had come out, I’m not saying England would have won the game, but it would have opened up more.

“Slovakia were very content to finish third in the group and get four points to take them forward.

“I don’t really think that 16 out of 24 teams going through is ideal as it means that it’s not the most difficult thing to get out of the group.”