WALES Under-21s football manager Paul Bodin is hopeful that having a settled squad and the right preparation could be key to having a successful European Championship qualifying campaign.

The draw for the 2023 UEFA Under-21s Championships took place at the end of January, and Wales were joined by the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Moldova and Gibraltar in Group E.

The team will host Moldova on Friday 4 June 2021 in their opening qualifying match, and will then play four away games in succession, prior to then facing Switzerland at home in mid-November.

The qualifying round will end with three home fixtures in March and June 2022, where Wales will face Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Gibraltar - and Bodin is looking forward to the new campaign.

There will be a very different look to this U21s squad, with 11 players who have featured regularly for the team over the course of the last two campaigns no longer eligible for this age group.

Liam Cullen, Regan Poole, Cameron Coxe, Aaron Lewis, Mark Harris, Nathan Broadhead, Harry Clifon, Mo Touray, Oli Cooper, Robbie Burton and Jack Evans bid farewell to the U21s last November.

Bodin said: "There's a couple of younger players on the peripheral, and if they're doing well at their clubs we'll move them up, which is the right thing to do - a mixture of ages to hopefully get the right results.

“We will go into the campaign feeling confident that we can actually qualify, and although the circumstances can dictate otherwise, we will go into it full of confidence, that’s for sure.”

He added: “The whole idea of a youth system is to see players move into the senior team, but it's about them performing at their clubs, and we offer them a platform to continue the pathway.

“We will sit down with them and try and help them and guide them a bit with our experience, but ultimately, they are the clubs' players, and we're only borrowing them to play for us.”

During the course of the last Under-21s qualifying campaign, players such as Rhys Norrington-Davies, Ben Cabango, Dylan Levitt and Brennan Johnson all progressed to the senior Wales squad.

“The last campaign was tough, we had so many players who had moved up to the senior team, it’s fantastic for them individually, but obviously it diminishes the strength of our group,” said Bodin.

“We always wish the players well, and there's enough younger players in the senior group now that we probably won't have that same problem again - and it shows that the pathway is there.”

Bodin added: “We're just looking forward to hopefully having a training camp in March, as opposed to playing a game, and all being well, we are hoping that there will be a fixture in June.

“Getting a training camp in March will be crucial to get the boys bedded into our style of play, or we will be going into the first game in June with limited preparation. March is a key month for us.”

The 2023 UEFA European U21 Championship Finals will take place in Georgia and Romania in June and July 2023, and the two host nations will be joined by 14 of the 53 teams included in the qualifiers.

The nine group winners and the best runners-up will qualify for the final tournament directly, while the other eight runners-up will have to play off for the remaining places in September 2022.