Wales boss Rob Page hails ‘great opportunity’ after Euro 2024 play-off draw

By Sports Desk November 23, 2023

Rob Page believes Wales have a “great opportunity” to reach Euro 2024 after being handed two possible home ties in the qualification play-offs.

Wales will welcome Finland to the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday, March 21 following Thursday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Victory in that single-leg semi-final would see the Dragons take on either Poland or Estonia at the same venue five days later, with a spot at next summer’s tournament in Germany up for grabs.

Manager Page was relieved to avoid a rematch with Ukraine, who his side beat in a play-off to qualify for last year’s World Cup, and insists Wales fear no-one in Cardiff.

“We tried to forecast the draw beforehand and we weren’t too far away,” said Page, whose team could also have been paired with Iceland at the last-four stage.

“What’s important to us is that home draw in the final – we’ve got to get the job done (against Finland) first and foremost, of course we have.

“We were probably wanting to avoid Ukraine as well so I think it’s gone to plan for us.

“I don’t think any team in that group (Ukraine, Finland and Iceland) would have been wanting to play us. I was more nervous for the draw for the home tie for the final.

“The form we’re in at the minute and with the ‘Red Wall’ at home, we’ll take anyone on in Cardiff.

“It’s a great opportunity for us: we’re two wins at home away from another qualification to a major tournament. We’re hoping now for two big efforts.”

Wales enter the play-offs unbeaten in six matches, a run which includes a 2-1 victory over Croatia and a 1-1 draw with Turkey – the two teams who finished above them in Group D.

Finland sit 62nd in the FIFA rankings and are aiming to qualify for the European Championship finals for only the second time following their debut at Euro 2020.

They were third in Northern Ireland’s qualifying group – four points behind both Denmark and Slovenia – after winning six of their 10 fixtures.

“Of course they’re a threat, we’ve got to respect that,” Page said of Finland.

“They’re a good team, they’re here for a reason.

“But if we meet the standards we set against Croatia and Turkey, I’m confident the result will take care of itself.”

Influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey missed the final three matches of qualifying due to a knee injury sustained in September.

Page has already been in contact with the former Arsenal and Juventus player, who rejoined boyhood club Cardiff in the summer, and expects him to “do everything in his power” to be ready for the play-offs.

“To have someone of Aaron’s quality to join the squad again is going to be a definite bonus for us, absolutely,” said Page.

“There’s a lot of time from now until March to get himself in the right place and he’s done a bit of work with us on camp last week.

“We’ve just had a couple of (text) messages together and he said about the draw, straight away he’s on it and he’s looking forward to it.

“He will do everything in his power now to make sure he’s part of that squad in March.”

Wales are seeking to secure a third successive appearance at the European Championship finals.

They are also attempting to reach a fourth major tournament out of the last five after last year ending their 64-year wait to play at the World Cup.

Wales came through the play-offs to book a spot at Qatar 2022, defeating Austria and Ukraine in Cardiff, and Page feels that experience could prove invaluable.

“That will be really important for us,” he said.

“A large portion of the group had the experience, so we’ve already exposed them to those types of games and environments. It won’t be alien to them.”

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