James: Euro 2016 drove me on to be here

Saturday 26 June 2021 08:00

Manchester United winger Daniel James believes there is no limit to what Wales can achieve at this summer’s European Championship with the side inspired by their country’s performance at the last Euros five years ago.

James and co take on Denmark in the last 16 of Euro 2020 at 17:00 BST off the back of a second-place finish in Group A.

The Dragons drew with Switzerland in their opening game of the tournament before impressively beating Turkey, prior to a narrow defeat to group winners Italy last weekend.

It means they will compete in the knockout stage of the European Championship for the second successive Euros, having reached the semi-final stage in 2016's tournament.

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The winger says the squad are full of confidence ahead of the knockouts and suggests the Dragons can draw confidence from both their group-stage performance and the achievements of their national side at the finals in France five years ago.

“I don’t think there’s any limit, especially after the last Euros, getting so far. For us, we believe going into every game,” James told UEFA.com in a pre-match interview.

“We’ve got a lot of people from the last Euros who played in that and can give great advice and talk about what happened there. We’ve got a great group of young boys coming through as well.

“Five years ago, I was watching in Marbella, playing in the Under-17s or Under-18s at the time, never believing I could get into the first team.

“Just watching that drove me on to be here today and to be involved is just amazing and I’m proud.”

Unlike five years ago, the Dragons will not have their supporters in the stadium when the game gets under way in Amsterdam this evening due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in the UK.

With the rules different for people travelling from Denmark, there will be a strong Danish contingent inside the Johan Cruyff Arena come kick-off but James says Wales will not be fazed by that, as they have already overcome something similar in this tournament by beating Turkey in front of a largely partisan crowd of over 30,000 in Baku earlier this month.

“It's obviously gutting not to have fans in a tournament like this,” our winger said in a separate interview with Sky Sports.

"The fans that came out to Rome and Baku are absolutely brilliant, especially when they’ve got to go home and quarantine.

"We can't make any excuses for the fans not being here. It's something that's been normal for the last year-and-a-half now, so it is something all the players are used to.

"It's something we can't go into the game thinking about. We know they're supporting from home, just like the other games.

"There may be more Danish fans there than Welsh fans, but it's just like the Turkey game really and we won't let that faze us."

Tonight’s opposition for Wales have had a very different experience to every other team in this tournament so far and have shown great strength and character to make it to the knockout stage.

Star man Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during their first game of the tournament against Finland with the Internazionale midfielder now thankfully making progress on his road to recovery from home.

James expressed his respect for the Danes and the way they have pulled together since, and believes that despite the circumstances, they will be more than ready to rise to the challenge again, when they face Wales this evening.

"Obviously, in the first game, it was one that was very emotional for them," our no.21 said.

"The mental state they must have been in and having to carry on that game, I honestly don't know how they did it. Full credit to them.

"The support for Eriksen has been absolutely brilliant. [I'm] thankful for all the people who were there that day to help him and it's absolutely brilliant that he's in recovery now and he's fully well.

"It's going to be an emotional game for them but it's one I'm sure they're going to be fully ready for."