Brennan Johnson

YEREVAN, ARMENIA - NOVEMBER 18: Brennan Johnson of Wales on the ball during the UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifier match between Armenia and Wales at Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Yerevan, Armenia. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Rob Page Orders Wales To Smash Down The Front Door, Not Go Around The Back


By Gareth James

Wales’ players have been told to forget about the back door and knock down the front.

Manager Rob Page has insisted there is no talk within his squad of play-offs as they head into their final Euro qualifying pool match against Turkey in Cardiff on Tuesday night.

The do-or-die effort against the Group D leaders, who arrived in the Welsh capital on the back of a 3-2 friendly win over Germany in Berlin, will be against a team needing only to take a point from the match to secure top seeding.

For Wales, the maths is simple. They have to win and hope that Armenia, the side who held them to a 1-1 draw in Yerevan last weekend, stop Croatia from winning to go through by right.

If they fail to make it four major championship finals in a row – 2016 and 2020 Euros and 2022 World Cup – by right, they will then have a back door route via a four-team play-off process.

“We’re having no talk of play-offs. If we’re talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday,” snapped Page.

“That’s our mentality and our attitude – we’re fully focused on the job we’ve got, and we don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes. We’re not admitting defeat when it’s still in our control.

“We knew that the play-offs would be a talking point because of the disappointment of the result in Armenia.

“I addressed that with the players in a meeting on Monday night and our full focus is on winning on Tuesday night.

“We’re not thinking of the play-offs because if we win, we can qualify if the other result goes our way.

“What I don’t want is to walk off at the end of the game having had one eye on the play-offs, find the result has gone for us in the other game, and we could have taken charge of it.

“We don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes.”

Wales will be without Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham, who is suspended, and Page hasn’t ruled out making other changes as he seeks a return to the heights of the victory over the Croatians.

Luton Town skipper Tom Lockyer is poised to replace Mepham at the back, with Dan James and Brennan Johnson in line for recalls to the starting line-up.

Page wants his team, unbeaten in their last five fixtures, to return to the peak they achieved in beating the third best team in the world, Croatia, in their last competitive home game last month.

“What we have to do now is finish on a high. We have to be confident because of the performance we gave against Croatia,” said Page.

“We will need to dig deep and we need the backing of the Red Wall once again. The atmosphere they have created for our games at the Cardiff City Stadium has been great.

“We will need energy from minute one.

“The performance against Croatia [in victory in October] against a top, top team was incredible. Everybody was talking about it, and rightly so, for the right reasons and we are going to need another level of performance like that on Tuesday.”

Wales skipper Ben Davies believes the ‘dream’ of reaching another major championship finals is still within the grasp of his team.

“It’s about giving all we’ve got in one last game and hoping things go our way,” said the Tottenham defender.

“Playing in major tournaments for your country is the pinnacle and that dream is still there.

“We’ve probably punched above our weight for a long time. When you do that people expect more out of you.

“We’re still in with a shout of qualification, it isn’t all doom and gloom just yet. We’re not panicking as a group, we still have a chance.

“To have qualified for three of the last four tournaments, and still have opportunity of qualifying for fourth, shows we’re not a million miles away.

“As a group that’s something we should be proud of. It wasn’t something we did as a one off. We maintained that success and want to keep it going.”


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