Ryan Giggs has challenged his Wales players to lay down a Euro 2020 marker when their Nations League campaign starts in Finland on Thursday.
Wales begin their League B, Group 4 campaign in Helsinki with Bulgaria – who visit the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday – and the Republic of Ireland completing the section.
But the delayed 2020 European Championship is on next summer’s horizon and Giggs admits places are up for grabs heading towards that tournament.
“We’ve got some new faces, some older faces, and it’s an opportunity for players to lay down a marker for what’s going to be a big 10 months,” Giggs said after arriving in the Finnish capital.
“Obviously we want to win the game but with an eye on doing a bit of experimental work to what players can do at this level.
“It’s been a good couple of days and everyone is looking forward to getting back to playing international football.
“We haven’t worked together for 10 months and there’s been a good vibe about this week.”
Gareth Bale, who has been out of favour at Real Madrid, will lead Wales at the newly-renovated Olympic Stadium with Ben Davies, Chris Gunter and Wayne Hennessey also offering plenty of experience.
But there is a fresh look about Giggs’ squad, with Liverpool full-back Neco Williams and Swansea centre-half Ben Cabango in line to make debuts over the next few days.
Giggs has had Wales’ Under-21 squad on site at their Vale of Glamorgan training base this week as he attempts to encourage the next generation to realise their senior dreams.
“I wanted to get that feeling I had at (Manchester) United,” Giggs said.
“Very often the youth team and the reserves would finish before the first team and come over and sit and watch us.
“Their aim is to be in that first team. They see the lads training, the good habits, some of their mates that they were playing with six months ago.
“It’s realistic they could be in this team, whether it’s in the next six months or next two years.
“It’s important to get that club atmosphere because when the lads do step up it’s not a big surprise. We also know the players and have watched them train.”
Fellow Euro 2020 qualifiers Finland are expected to provide stern opposition, especially with Norwich striker Teemu Pukki featuring in their forward line.
Pukki scored 10 goals in Euro 2020 qualifying with only England captain Harry Kane and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo managing more.
“They are always a strong team to play against and now we’re playing against the best Finland team ever because it’s the first time they’ve qualified for a major championship,” Giggs said.
“They’ll be in the same boat as us with a lot of players under-cooked. You are going into the unknown really as to how the players are going to react.
“Some have had some minutes in pre-season, others haven’t played for months. So it’s about managing the minutes.”
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