The very first thing I’d inform the Wales squad earlier than this European Championship is, no matter occurs, please do not evaluate it to what we did in France in 2016.
By that, I imply they do not have to attain the semi-finals once more for it to rank as an achievement.
Looking again at what we did isn’t any means to view this match, as a result of that was a one-off and has no bearing on what is going to occur this time.
You cannot attempt to recreate Euro 2016 as a result of it is a totally different group of gamers – there are solely eight survivors from the squad of 5 years in the past – however they’ll write their very own success story.
‘Rodon has a giant half to play on the again’
When I take into consideration our younger gamers who could make a giant impression over the subsequent few weeks, one identify springs to thoughts instantly – Joe Rodon.
I did not function very a lot in our qualifying marketing campaign to get right here however I nonetheless took numerous pleasure in how sturdy Wales had been on the again, and Joe performed a giant half in that.
He’s 23 now however I’ve recognized him since he was 15, when he first began coaching with the Swansea first group, and we have at all times been shut. I really feel like we’re related kinds of participant.
All the boys who’ve come into our defence over the previous few years – Chris Mepham, James Lawrence, Tom Lockyer and Ben Cabango – have finished very well.
But I take a look at Joe as our primary, not solely as a result of I’ve recognized him the longest, however as a result of I like the way in which he performs.
His block in our final aggressive sport, our World Cup qualifying win over the Czech Republic in March, is the proper instance of that.
In the previous few minutes, Joe threw himself in entrance of the ball to stop a sure equaliser and that’s what excites me – and will get me up off the couch as of late. It’s nearly as good as a objective, principally.
When you might be stable in defence, you at all times have an opportunity in a sport and we glance actually sturdy there, together with our full-backs. It’s one of many causes I’m feeling assured concerning the subsequent few weeks.
‘We know we belong at this degree now’
I used to be Wales captain going into the final Euros, and the fantastic thing about it was that simply being there was sufficient.
We might have misplaced all three group video games and it would not have mattered to the followers – they had been simply pleased to lastly see their nation carry out on that stage for the primary time since 1958. That took the strain off us, and we might simply go and play.
Within the camp, we felt an identical means. At first, we had been simply pleased to be there, if I’m being sincere, however then because the match progressed, and we stayed in it, our outlook modified. We grew in confidence and we needed extra.
This time, we get pleasure from that have. We can nonetheless play with freedom, however with the data we belong at this degree.
Players similar to Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen, who went to France final time, haven’t simply performed at a serious finals, they’ve had a very profitable time there.
Off the pitch, it’s the similar – we’re prepared. When we went to France, the Football Association of Wales went into the unknown. Logistically, all the things was new.
Now they know what works and what would not, proper down to the final element, which will likely be an enormous assist to the group of younger gamers we have now acquired now, who’re on this state of affairs for the primary time.
Those senior gamers have gotten a giant position to play in guiding them, however I believe we have now acquired stacks of character proper by way of the squad and training group.
The managerial state of affairs has been sorted, with Robert Page taking cost for the match and he seems to be like a person with authority – identical to he was after I was in Wales camps with him as a participant.
This group is his now, so between him and the names I’ve talked about, we could have no scarcity of management and that’s already shining by way of.
Every time I see us play, I see one thing I like in our efficiency even when the consequence has not gone our means.
This Wales group performs with out worry, and I do not worry for them – we’re in a really troublesome group alongside Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, which might be the toughest after Group F, which comprises France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary. But I nonetheless imagine we’ll make it into the final 16.
Ashley Williams was talking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.