In the Wales camp in Baku, the unlikely city where dreams of Euro 2020 will be realized or shattered


Wales have set up camp in Azerbaijan ahead of their Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland on Saturday.

Rob Page’s men are stepping up preparations for the tournament this week after a 0-0 draw with Albania at Cardiff City Stadium, just three days after a 3-0 loss to defending world champions France in Nice .

On Monday, the team and coaches crossed Europe to their base in Baku ahead of their two meetings in the capital.

Boxes of kits, soccer balls and side-flow Covid-19 tests are among the long list of items transported from Cardiff to Baku as the FAW produced a monumental behind-the-scenes effort to prepare four floors of their hotel team for the arrival of the 26 men selected for the Euros duty.

Other FAW delegates were accommodated at a hotel adjacent to the team’s – such is the size of the traveling group.

Based on the glorious Baku promenade, their hotel overlooks the largest bay on the east side of Azerbaijan and into the Caspian Sea, while the iconic Flame Towers can be seen in the distance.

Just over 24 hours before the team arrived, the city hosted what was a spectacular Formula 1 race.

Much of the vast entourage required to host such an important event on the sporting calendar remains in Baku – although several elements of the operation continue to be cut piece by piece.

The F1 start / finish line on the Baku street circuit is located outside the Wales team hotel

Wales team hotel in Baku

The Wales team hotel in Baku is next to the pit wall used for Sunday’s Formula 1 race

Baku by night

This is the location of the street circuit, the Wales team bus pulls up about 20 meters from where race leader Max Verstappen lost control of his Red Bull car before hitting a wall – something players could have seen in all its glory had they seen the track from their hotel room 24 hours earlier.

Far from their living quarters, the Red Dragons’ training base is located at the 31,000-seat Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, about 10 km southeast of the Olympic Stadium, where they will face Switzerland and Turkey.

The team was put to the test on the training ground for the first time on Tuesday – with temperatures reaching up to 28C.

They will continue to operate at the site normally used by Qarabag FK for the remainder of the week before getting a feel for their surroundings at the 69,870-seat Olympic Stadium on Friday – with Page and a senior player (likely Captain Gareth Bale) together take on the media ahead of their tournament opener against the Swiss on Saturday.

Wales will return to base camp for training sessions on the Sunday and Monday after their opener before holding another session at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday in preparation for the game against Turkey on Wednesday 16 June.

This game is likely to be like an away game, with thousands of Turkish fans expected to cross the border to support their team.

While there will be Welsh fans in Baku later this week, the pandemic and government advice means the traveling Welsh army we saw at Euro 2016 just won’t be around this time around.

Welsh captain Gareth Bale (L) and his Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Ben Davies during a training session at Republican Tofiq Bahramov Stadium on day one of their UEFA Euro 2020 tournament (Photo by David Rawcliffe / Propaganda)

Welsh marquee for pre-activation and gym work during a training session at Republican Tofiq Bahramov Stadium on day one of their UEFA Euro 2020 tournament. (Photo by David Rawcliffe / Propaganda)

After this meeting, Wales will stay in Baku for two more days before heading to Rome on the evening of Friday 18 June before the final group game against Italy two days later.

Wales have enjoyed success in Baku – nicknamed the Windy City due to the strong gusts that hit the coast – on their way to qualify for the European Championships this summer.

They now hope their meticulous planning will play a key role in ensuring they can take out their first two group opponents and travel to Rome with points in the sack before their final game against Italy.


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