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Wales v Latvia preview: Hosts seek first win of post-Gareth Bale era

There was late drama for Wales as they secured a 1-1 draw with Croatia in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier and they will now be hoping to build further momentum when they welcome Latvia to the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday.

Robert Page's side appeared to be heading towards a defeat in Split on Saturday night, with World Cup semi-finalists Croatia leading 1-0 heading into second-half stoppage time, but substitute Nathan Broadhead struck a dramatic 93rd-minute equaliser on what was his international debut to salvage what could prove to be a crucial point.

That draw, in arguably Wales' toughest match of the group, means Page and co have made a positive start to the qualifying campaign, although that will count for very little if they do not follow it up with a victory over Latvia.

Wales are 2/9 in the Full Time Result market to register their first victory of the post-Gareth Bale era, while Latvia, who are the lowest-ranked team in the group, are 14/1 to claim a shock victory, with the draw 19/4.

Positive start to life after Bale

WhatWales v Latvia
WhereCardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
When19:45, Tuesday 28th March
How to watchViaplay Sports 2, S4C
OddsWales 2/9, Draw 19/4, Latvia 14/1

Perhaps only externally, but there was some trepidation surrounding Wales heading into this qualifying campaign following their disappointing performance at the World Cup and the subsequent retirement of key players, most notably Bale.

The former Real Madrid star is Wales' all-time record goalscorer and appearance maker, while he was so often the player to deliver in the big moments for his country.

Replacing Bale was always going to be difficult, but Wales showed plenty of heart and endeavour to hang on in there against Croatia and, perhaps most satisfyingly for head coach Page, it was one of the new players brought into the squad that scored the equalising goal in Ipswich forward Broadhead.

Broadhead is one of 13 players within the current squad aged 25 or under, with Page seemingly well underway in his rebuild, with results like Saturday's 1-1 draw perhaps underlining that Wales can still thrive following the retirement of Bale.

Of course, all that good work and positivity will disappear if Wales cannot follow up Saturday's battling point with victory over Latvia, with the home win available at 2/9.

Victory would also take Wales onto four points in qualifying Group D, a respectable total that would enhance their 7/2 chances of topping the section in the Group Betting market.

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On paper, Latvia are the weakest team in the group and one that Wales should be able to beat considering there are 105 places separating the two sides in the world rankings.

However, Dainis Kazakevics’ side have been improving of late, as they topped their UEFA Nations League section during the autumn to secure promotion to the third-tier of that competition, while they also ran the Republic of Ireland close during an international friendly in Dublin last week.

Ireland won the match 3-2, but Latvia showed plenty of attacking intent, as well as an eye for a spectacular long-range goal - Roberts Uldrikis' effort at the Aviva Stadium was particularly noteworthy.

This will be Latvia's first match in the group, but although they haven't challenged to qualify for a major tournament for the best part of 20 years, it is worth noting they made it through to the finals of Euro 2004.

In fact, just two months after featuring at that tournament in Portugal, Latvia faced Wales for the first and so far only time in an international friendly in Riga - with the visitors claiming a 2-0 victory that day thanks to goals from John Hartson and Craig Bellamy.

A repeat of that result would certainly prove satisfactory for Wales on Tuesday - the 2-0 home win is available at 9/2 in the Correct Score market.

Wales to stick with tried and trusted

Page admitted following the draw with Croatia that his decision to substitute captain Aaron Ramsey, Dan James and Harry Wilson during the second half in Split was to prioritise the clash with Latvia - meaning all three should retain their places in the starting XI.

It could well be an unchanged line-up for Wales, which means Saturday's hero Broadhead may have to make do with a place on the bench once again - he is 13/10 in the Anytime Goalscorers market.

Latvia could also name a very similar side to the one that lined up against Ireland, although forward Raimonds Krollis, who joined Serie A outfit Spezia in January, could force his way into the starting XI after coming off the bench in Dublin.

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