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Wales midfielder Jordan James is targeting Euro 2024 qualification after enjoying the “best night of my life” against stellar Croatia trio Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.
Croatia have often carried the tag of having the best midfield in world football, but they had few answers in Cardiff last month as Wales beat them 2-1 to keep hopes of playing at Euro 2024 alive.
James, the 19-year-old Birmingham midfielder, had a huge part to play in that victory alongside Ethan Ampadu, and Wales now meet Armenia and Turkey this week with automatic qualification in their own hands.
“It was probably the best night of my life, as a collective and for me personally,” James said.
“Seeing my family in the crowd and how proud they were, it was a massive win for the country. Hopefully we can do the same in the next two games.
“I don’t think it gets much better than that, but we’ve still got a job to do.
“On paper, that was the toughest game in the group, but we’re not going to take the next two games lightly.
“We know what it means to the country to get to these big tournaments, so that’s our focus and hopefully we can do that.
It was probably the best night of my life, as a collective and for me personally
“Coming into this camp now, we’ll look back on that Croatia game and take confidence into the next two.”
Hereford-born James was capped by England at Under-20 level but qualifies for Wales through his father Tony, who played for his hometown club Newport.
James only made his debut in March – coming on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw away to Croatia in Split – but has started the last two qualifiers, both of which Wales won.
He has now won six caps – an incredible 164 fewer than Real Madrid star Modric – and quickly struck up an effective partnership with Leeds midfielder Ampadu.
“It’s been great. As soon as I played with him the first time, we just clicked,” James said.
“We just work off each other, I think you saw that against Croatia. When we didn’t have possession, we were solid, we did our job and that’s the main thing.
“Ethan is a brilliant player and it’s very easy to play with him. I see him as a leader and I study how he plays because he’s somewhere I want to get to. I could see him being captain one day.
“I’ve had massive trust from the gaffer (Rob Page) at such a young age. Playing for your country, there is a risk but he took it and I’m just trying to repay him for what he’s done for me.”
Wales will secure a top-two place in Group D by taking maximum points from Armenia in Yerevan on Saturday and already-qualified Turkey at the Cardiff City Stadium three days later.
Dropped points will leave Wales relying on favourable results elsewhere if they are to avoid the play-offs in March where the likes of Norway, Poland and Ukraine could be lurking.
Armenia, ranked 95th in the world and 67 places below Wales, stunned Page’s side with a 4-2 Cardiff victory in June.
James said: “There is a bit of revenge there because you don’t like losing.
“We’re athletes, we want to compete, and we don’t like losing against any team.
“It’s not nice and we want to get one back on them. But we know we’ve got a job to do.
“We want to get it done and then focus on Turkey.”