Chris Mepham knows importance of Wales’ clash with Hungary after Croatia loss

Chris Mepham knows importance of Wales’ clash with Hungary after Croatia loss

Chris Mepham admits Wales can not afford to falter against Hungary after their Euro 2020 qualifying setback in Croatia.

Hungary’s 3-1 win in Azerbaijan on Saturday evening took them to the top of Group E ahead of their date with Wales in Budapest on Tuesday.

Wales are now three points adrift of top-two Hungary and Croatia, albeit with a game in hand, after losing 2-1 to the World Cup finalists in Osijek.

Croatia hold on to their lead here in Osijek and confirm the first defeat for #Wales in the #EuropeanQualifiers. #TheRedWall #YWalGoch

— Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 (@Cymru) June 8, 2019

“We’d be really disappointed if we came away with zero points from both games,” said Bournemouth defender Mepham.

“I don’t think it’s a must-win, but it’s a really important game to get a result.

“I see Croatia as the team to beat in the group, but Hungary got a result against them so we need to show them the respect that they deserve.

“They are a good team and after this result it’s more important to get the three points.”

Wales are three points off the top of Group E
Wales are three points off the top of Group E (Adam Davy/PA)

Wales manager Ryan Giggs said he will make changes with the quick turnaround in fixtures at the end of a long, hard season.

Giggs must also take into account the effects of a draining afternoon in Osijek, where the temperature touched 30 degrees and water breaks were needed.

Chris Gunter and Ethan Ampadu could both come into contention and Mepham’s Bournemouth team-mate David Brooks is likely to start after making an impact from the bench in Osijek.

Brooks scored his first international goal as Wales finished strongly and almost snatched an unlikely point.

  • Hungary
  • Croatia
  • Slovakia
  • Wales
  • Azerbaijan

“I was pleased for him (Brooks), I’m good mates with him away from football,” Mepham said.

“Unfortunately, David has been carrying an ankle injury and didn’t feel quite right to start. It was the reason he was on the bench.”

Mepham says the key for Wales is how quickly they recover from playing in the Osijek heat, UEFA having controversially ruled that the game should kick-off at 3pm local time.

“It was a very tough game. We knew it would be against a good side and especially in that heat,” Mepham said.

David Brooks could start for Wales in Hungary
David Brooks could start for Wales in Hungary (Adam Davy/PA)

“But we showed our character to stay in the game and create chances, which were probably the best in the match.

“We’ve got to take the belief that even though we didn’t play the best match we created big opportunities.

“If you do that when you’re playing well you’ve got to believe you’ll take those opportunities.”

Mepham’s centre-back partner James Lawrence put Wales on the back foot by turning the ball into his own net after 17 minutes.

The Anderlecht defender diverted Ivan Perisic’s cross past Wayne Hennessey with Andrej Kramaric lurking behind him.

“I don’t think there’s a lot he could have done,” Mepham said. “They had too much space behind and he was sprinting to get back into position.

“It was quite a difficult ball and he could not address his feet in time. It was quite unfortunate, but it happens.”