Soccer

Passionate speech from actor Rhys Ifans inspired Wales victory – Jordan James

Wales play Poland in Cardiff on Thursday with a place at Euro 2024 on the line.

Rhys Ifans (left) inspired Wales to victory, according to and Jordan James
Rhys Ifans (left) and Jordan James Rhys Ifans (left) inspired Wales to victory, according to and Jordan James

Jordan James has revealed how a passionate speech from actor Rhys Ifans inspired Wales to a Euro 2024 play-off victory over Finland.

Ifans rose to worldwide fame in the 1999 comedy film hit Notting Hill – alongside Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts – and is also known for roles in Harry Potter and Marvel’s Spider-Man movies.

The 56-year-old Welsh actor spoke to Rob Page’s squad before their 4-1 play-off semi-final win against Finland on Thursday, telling them that “nothing unifies us in the way you do and makes us safe to show our pride and our sorrow”.

“It was unbelievable,” said Birmingham midfielder James. “I got goosebumps when he was talking.

“All the lads would say the same thing. It really touched the heart and showed how much this means to the fans and every Welsh person around the world.

“To have the backing of the fans is unbelievable and it helps us a lot.”

Wales return to the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday to play Poland with a place at Euro 2024 at stake.

Victory would see Wales qualify for a third-successive European Championship and a fourth major tournament out of five, having not played in one between 1958 and 2016.

“We want to get to these big tournaments. We’re one game away and we can’t wait for it,” said James.

“The next game is massive, for everyone and the whole country. The manager told us to trust ourselves. We are good players.

“If we trust ourselves, play together, work hard for each other and use the fans to our advantage then it makes it easier. We can always get to the other side.”

James does not turn 20 until July but the teenager – who was heavily linked with Serie A club Atalanta during the January transfer window – has become a mainstay of the Wales midfield alongside Ethan Ampadu over the last six months.

He will win his 10th cap against Poland, but admits he did not even consider the prospect of playing at Euro 2024 during the last European Championship, three years ago.

“I was at home watching that on TV with my parents,” said James. “I wasn’t even hoping I’d be at the next one. It wasn’t even in my head, so to be here and one game away is unbelievable.”

On playing alongside Ampadu, James added: “Ethan’s a top player, I’m inspired to be like him. To get 50 caps at 23 is something that I want to do.

“Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps and have the career that he is going to have.

James will win his 10th cap against Poland
Jordan James in action for Wales James will win his 10th cap against Poland (Nick Potts/PA)

“The more games you play with each other the better you are going to be.

“I’m starting to know what he is going to do with the ball so I can react off that.

“We work really well with each other which is really good.”