Robert Page: Manager hails Wales character before must-win Poland game
|Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Sunday, 25 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights on BBC One Wales from 22:30 BST and later on demand|
Wales manager Robert Page praised his side’s character after a battling 2-1 defeat in Belgium set up a must-win game against Poland on Sunday.
Wales almost pulled off an unlikely comeback and now need to beat Poland in Cardiff to keep their place in the top tier of the Nations League.
“This is the game we want to win on Sunday. It’s a final,” said Page.
“There’s been lessons learnt here to take into the World Cup. I said to them in the changing room, we’ve asked for this.
“By qualifying for the World Cup, we’re asking to compete against nations like Belgium, like Holland, and we’ve been in the games right up until the end. It speaks volumes about that group of players.
“It’s the character of the players – they’ll never give up. We’ve proved it time and time again against world-class opposition.
“Tactically, of course we’re going to have to make tweaks and changes. They’re the number two seed in the world, by the way. We’ve come away from home, it’s 2-1 at the death and we’re still creating chances.
“There’s too many positives – I’m not going to be negative. It’s one game now. If we’ve come from June to now where we’ve qualified for the World Cup and stayed in the division [Nations League A] then that’s a massive achievement for those players.”
This is Wales’ first campaign at the highest level of the Nations League, having won their group in the second tier last time out.
Thursday’s defeat against Belgium kept Wales bottom of their group with four defeats from five but earlier results were not helped by Page having to field largely second-string sides in June as he prepared for what would turn out to be a historic World Cup play-off victory over Ukraine.
He was forced to rely on his fringe players again in Brussels. Wales were overwhelmed in the first half against Belgium, severely weakened by the absence of injured first-team players such as Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Harry Wilson.
Captain Gareth Bale only appeared as a second-half substitute, with Page managing the 33-year-old’s workload given his limited game-time with Los Angeles FC this season.
However, Page hinted the former Real Madrid forward could start against Poland.
“The plan was always to play him as few minutes as we possibly could [against Belgium] with one eye on Sunday,” he said.
“We’ve just got to recover the lads. There’ll be some changes made and we’ll go and put a team out to win the game.”