Under-fire Wales boss Rob Page says he is determined to see out the three remaining years of his contract.

Page signed a four-year deal exactly 12 months ago as Wales prepared to make their first appearance at a World Cup for 64 years.

But their fortunes have plummeted since and Page faces a potentially make-or-break Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia on Monday.

Wales must beat bottom side Latvia – who are yet to register a point in Group D – to keep alive hopes of a top-two place and automatic qualification for next summer’s finals in Germany.

Asked at his pre-match press conference whether he was under pressure from the Football Association of Wales executive to qualify, Page said: “I can’t let that affect me. I can’t think about that.

“I’ve got a job to do. I want to qualify for me, as a Welsh supporter myself.

“As the manager, I want to be in this job for the rest of my contract. I really enjoy working with this group of players.”

Pressed further on whether he was fighting for his job, Page replied: “We are in an industry where you need to win games of football.

“We are in a period of transition as well. I can’t influence what the board or people above do.

“All I can worry about is winning games of football and giving it my best shot.

“If I do that and it doesn’t work out for me, then at least I can walk away with my head held high.”

Wales warmed up for their trip to Latvia with a goalless draw against South Korea on Thursday.

Page said he saw plenty of positive signs during that Cardiff clash and Wales were further boosted by Friday’s set of results in their qualifying section.

Group favourites Croatia left Latvia dispirited with a 5-0 thrashing, while Turkey and Armenia drew 1-1.

Wales would draw level on points with Armenia if they win in Riga and Croatia do likewise in Yerevan – and move within three points of Turkey with a game in hand.

“(Turkey and Armenia drawing) was probably the best result for us,” Page said.

“It would be nice for Croatia to get another win for them to run away with it and have us fighting it out for second spot.

“We want to win the game. It’s all about the points for us. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1-0.

“They are off the back of a tough game but they have been in games right up until the 90th minute.

“We can’t wait for it off the back of a positive performance against Korea. I didn’t want the game because I didn’t want to risk injuries and we’ve picked up an injury from that game as Wes (Burns) came on and he tweaked his hamstring.

“There is a generation of supporters who have seen Wales qualify for major tournaments. Losing players makes the job harder, but expectations say that we should be qualifying.

“It’s not as easy as that. We will continue to try and qualify for every tournament.”

Michael O’Neill admitted Northern Ireland’s miserable Euro 2024 qualifying campaign was starting to feel like Groundhog Day as he urged fans to look at the bigger picture while he tries to mould a new team.

After Thursday’s 4-2 defeat to Slovenia on Thursday, it was back the old familiar feeling of a 1-0 defeat in Kazakhstan on Sunday – a fifth consecutive defeat in this campaign and the fourth 1-0 reverse during that run.

The build-up to the match was dominated by talk of injuries – Northern Ireland have been without as many as 18 different players during this campaign to date – and yet again the talk after was of a game decided by narrow margins.

Maxim Samorodov’s 27th minute strike settled it, but Northern Ireland missed a golden first-half chance when Kazakhstan’s goalscorer tracked back to stop Conor McMenamin prodding home when Matty Kennedy’s mis-hit shot was rolling towards the goal line.

Although they did not produce anything like the attacking display they showed in Ljubljana on Thursday, O’Neill’s side still ended the game with more possession and more shots than Kazakhstan, but on the wrong side of the result.

“I think it followed quite a similar pattern for us,” O’Neill said. “Obviously the goal in the game is the only defining moment. We started the game well, we were dominating but our play in the final third let us down, we’re lacking a little bit in that area at the minute obviously.”

The absence of Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans and Shane Ferguson has been a constant since before the campaign even started, but on top of that, Northern Ireland have suffered a succession of injuries, with Craig Cathcart and Ciaron Brown the latest to join the list.

That has forced O’Neill to blood young players more quickly than planned, and meant a campaign which started with such optimism has turned into a recurring nightmare, the only thing missing being the sound of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You, Babe’ heralding the start of each international window.

“It has been a little bit (like Groundhog Day),” O’Neill said. “This is our third time together as a group in terms of my time back in charge so there is a process we’re having to go through a little bit, which is painful.

“For a lot of those lads, it’s always nicer to come into international football for the first time and you’re winning games, it’s always easier to come into a team that’s doing well.

“I reflect back to the lead-in to Euro 2016 and you had the likes of Stuart Dallas and Paddy McNair come into the team and we were always going well. It’s always an easier process.

“Now we’re trying to introduce players into a team when the results are not so good so it’s more challenging for the players.”

The hope is that those younger players benefit further down the line, particularly when the day comes that the senior players Northern Ireland have leaned on for so long are no longer around – a time that may well arrive by the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign in March 2025.

“We just have to play through this period,” O’Neill added. “I think the team in many ways is developing. People may argue against that based on the results, but I have to look at the bigger picture in terms of where the team has to go in the next 12 to 18 months.

“We just have to persevere with what we’re doing. I think a lot of what we’re doing with the team is the right way to approach, but in this campaign we’ve had four 1-0 defeats and the margins in all the games have been very narrow.”

Northern Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifying misery continued as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Kazakhstan after the long trip to Astana.

It was a fifth consecutive defeat in this campaign, and the fourth time in the last five Michael O’Neill’s injury-ravaged side have been unable to muster a goal.

Kazakhstan put the first nail in the coffin of Northern Ireland’s qualifying hopes with their smash-and-grab 1-0 win in Belfast in June, and added another here with Maxim Samorodov’s 27th-minute strike enough to take three points.

Northern Ireland can only envy the progress of a side ranked 40 places below them, with this Kazakhstan’s fourth win in Group H, keeping them in the thick of the qualification fight.

O’Neill has more than enough capital – both within the dressing room and beyond it – to avoid coming under pressure, but this losing run and the injury crisis which has contributed to it are becoming a real test of Northern Ireland’s resolve.

The qualifying campaign has gone so wrong the Green and White Army might even be looking forward to next year’s Nations League – a competition which has rarely warmed Northern Irish hearts.

This was another match where little separated the sides – with Northern Ireland having more of the ball and more shots – but O’Neill’s men did not get the rub of the green on the Astana Arena’s artificial surface.

O’Neill promised adjustments to make his side more compact after Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Slovenia but as they tightened up Kazakhstan were able to frustrate the visitors, with nothing like the same attacking vigour seen against Slovenia on show.

George Saville’s ambitious second-minute strike was as close as Northern Ireland got to goal in the opening half-hour as Conor McMenamin, the star of the show on Thursday, found Besiktas left-back Nuraly Alip a much more difficult customer than Slovenia’s Erik Janza.

Kazakhstan looked the more threatening, with Baktiyor Zainutdinov hitting a low drive narrowly wide before Trai Hume was required to make a strong block to keep out Yerkin Tapalov’s shot.

But moments later the hosts led as Samorodov skipped away from the returning Dan Ballard, creating space to arrow a shot into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards out, prompting a prolonged inquiry between Saville and Jonny Evans.

Kazakhstan threatened again. Bailey Peacock-Farrell failed to gather a high ball under pressure from Abzal Beysebekov before Paddy McNair cleared the danger, then Ballard made a vital block to prevent Samorodov going clean through.

Having survived the danger, Northern Ireland contrived to miss the best chance of the night before half-time.

Conor Washington flicked the ball perfectly into the path of Matty Kennedy but the Kilmarnock man struggled to get it out of his feet, rolling a tame cross-shot beyond goalkeeper Igor Shatskiy.

McMenamin came racing in to try to prod home, but goalscorer Samorodov beat him to the ball before Alip hooked it away, leaving Northern Ireland scratching their heads.

O’Neill sent on Jordan Thompson and Paul Smyth to replace McMenamin and Saville at the break, and Northern Ireland soon threatened again with Shatskiy doing well to deny Washington as he got a flick on Shea Charles’s shot.

Jordan Jones replaced Kennedy and Northern Ireland began to build pressure after the hour. Charles won a foot race to win the ball in the corner of the box and teed up Washington, but his shot was charged down.

Northern Ireland kept Kazakhstan pegged back for most of the final 20 minutes, but as has been the case too many times, the clear chance they needed to equalise proved elusive.

Wales aim to keep their Euro 2024 qualification hopes against Latvia on Monday.

The Dragons have ground to make up in Group D after suffering June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points surrounding the clash at Riga’s Skonto Stadium.

Page under pressure

How Rob Page could do with a win. Wales’ woeful run of one victory in 13 games – against Latvia in March – has piled the pressure on the manager. Page signed a four-year contract only 12 months ago but many fans have turned on the man who guided Wales to their first World Cup for 64 years. There were some positive signs in Thursday’s goalless friendly draw against South Korea, but Page knows that getting Wales’ Euro 2024 campaign back on track by beating Latvia is a must.

Brennan time

With record scorer Gareth Bale’s exploits firmly in the history books, it is time for Brennan Johnson to take the mantle of being Wales’ main man. Johnson may only be 22, but his £47.5million move from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham has elevated him to another level. His last international goal came over a year ago in June 2022 and Johnson has to start scoring regularly if Wales are to prosper post-Bale.

State of play

That disastrous June double-header has left Wales with a mountain to climb for a top-two spot and automatic qualification. But all is not lost after Friday’s results, which fell kindly for Wales. Group favourites Croatia thrashed Latvia 5-0 to damage Monday’s opponents, while Turkey and Armenia drew 1-1. Wales would draw level on points with Armenia if they win in Latvia and Croatia do likewise in Yerevan – and move within three points of Turkey with a game in hand.

James breakthrough

Jordan James made his first Wales start against South Korea and was one of the stand-out players on the night. The 19-year-old midfielder came through the same Birmingham academy as England international Jude Bellingham and also appears to have a bright future ahead of him. James’ passing and pressing offers balance to a Wales midfield that has often been overrun in the past year – but is it too early to throw him into a must-win qualifier?

Perfect record

Wales can take heart from their record against Latvia – played two, won two. The two nations first met in a Riga friendly in August 2004, which Wales won 2-0. Both goals came in the final 10 minutes through John Hartson and Craig Bellamy. Wales beat Latvia 1-0 in their Euro 2024 qualifier in Cardiff six months ago. Kieffer Moore’s towering 41st-minute header secured Wales’ win on a night when Bale was given a pre-match guard of honour as he said goodbye to the home supporters.

Neco Williams has backed his former Nottingham Forest team-mate Brennan Johnson to thrive at Tottenham and keep Wales in the race for Euro 2024 qualification.

Johnson completed a £47.5million transfer to Spurs in the final minutes of deadline day and has not yet played for his new club.

But Williams said the 22-year-old forward celebrated the move by taking several of his Wales team-mates out to dinner in London and picking up the tab.

Johnson is, perhaps unfairly, considered the direct replacement for record Spurs goalscorer Harry Kane and the man to fill the boots of retired Wales great Gareth Bale at international level.

“A lot fans will say that, but at the same time Brennan is not Gareth Bale or Harry Kane,” Forest full-back Williams said ahead of Wales’ vital Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia on Monday.

“He’s his own player and he has got his own style. He wouldn’t want to be compared to them or be seen as their replacements to step in.

“He has got the potential to reach the highest of levels. But at the same time he’s only 22 and still very young.

“He has proven it in the Premier League and now he has to prove it at what you’d say is a top-six team and do it in the Premier League again.

“He’s got a move for big money and you can see that his confidence has taken him to the next level.

“Hopefully he can take that with him into this Wales camp and win us some games.”

Johnson met up with some of his Wales colleagues in London after joining Tottenham before arriving for international duty.

“We celebrated with a little drink and some nice food,” said 22-year-old Williams.

“It was a little meet up and a chance to say congratulations to Brennan on his move. To be fair, he got the bill as well.

“Everyone was buzzing for him. It was last minute but we are all very pleased for him.

“I’m just not looking forward to seeing him come back to the City Ground!”

Johnson and Williams both started on Thursday as Wales drew 0-0 with South Korea in a Cardiff friendly.

But the Latvia game represents the important part of the September double-header as Wales attempt to revive their Euro 2024 qualification bid.

Defeats to Armenia and Turkey in June have left Wales playing catch-up in Group D and there is no margin for error in Riga.

Williams said: “When we look back on it, the goals we conceded, we know we can do so much better than that.

“As a team, that just wasn’t us. You can pinpoint so many things.

“The gaps were too big from the strikers to the defenders, it just wasn’t a good performance all-round.

“We’ve got top teams in our group and knew it wasn’t going to be easy from the start.

“But we’ve got plenty of games to put that right and get as many points as possible to qualify.”

North Macedonia fought back to draw 1-1 with Italy in their Euro 2024 Group C qualifier and deny new Azzurri boss Luciano Spalletti a win in his first match in charge.

Spalletti took over following the sudden resignation of Roberto Mancini last month and inherited a side which had already lost to England in their opening fixture.

Ciro Immobile broke the deadlock two minutes into the second half when he headed in a rebound after Nicolo Barella’s volley struck the crossbar.

North Macedonia – who beat Italy in the 2022 World Cup play-offs – got back on level terms with nine minutes left through a fine free-kick from captain Enis Bardhi.

The draw left Italy third in the group, but having played only three matches so far because of their Nations League campaign.

Earlier, leaders England were held to a 1-1 draw by Ukraine in Wroclaw, Poland.

Arsenal midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko opened the scoring in the 26th minute, sparking wild celebrations from the estimated 40,000 Ukraine fans at the Tarczynski Arena.

England equalised just before the break when captain Harry Kane picked out Kyle Walker on the overlap down the right for the Manchester City defender to score a first international goal in his 77th appearance.

Belgium won 1-0 in Azerbaijan to move top of Group F.

Yannick Carrasco deflected a long-range shot from Johan Bakayoko past the wrong-footed Azerbaijan goalkeeper in the 38th minute, which proved enough for all three points to put the Red Devils above Austria on goal difference.

Newcastle forward Alexander Isak was among the scorers as Sweden ran out 5-0 winners in Estonia to sit four points off the top two.

Switzerland missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of Group I after Kosovo fought back to draw 2-2 in Pristina

Bologna midfielder Remo Freuler put the Swiss ahead in the 14th minute, before Vedat Muriqi equalised midway through the second half.

Freuler looked to have secured three points when his deflected effort went in off defender Amir Rrahmani with 11 minutes left, but Mallorca forward Muriqi struck again in added time.

Romania remain second, two points off Switzerland, after Israel came from behind to draw 1-1 in Bucharest, while it finished goalless between Andorra and Belarus.

Gareth Southgate focused on England’s important point and a valuable learning experience after admitting his side did not “quite click” in attack in the Euro 2024 qualifying draw against Ukraine.

Having won their first four Group C matches on the road to next summer’s tournament in Germany, Saturday saw them fail to win a European Championship qualifier for just the second time in 23 attempts.

Ukraine, playing on the road due to the ongoing Russian invasion in their homeland, took the lead through skipper Oleksandr Zinchenko to the delight of the partisan crowd in Wroclaw, Poland.

England levelled before half-time through Kyle Walker’s first international goal on his 77th appearance for the national team, but Southgate’s side could not find a winner as they struggled for attacking fluidity and a cutting edge.

“The reality is we’re not going to win every game by fours and sevens as we’ve done in this qualifying campaign,” the England boss said after Saturday’s 1-1 draw.

“That was a really good test – away from home, very passionate atmosphere, quite a few changes forced from the last game.

“For people like Marc Guehi, for instance, his first experience of the game like that with England, which he came through really strongly.

“So, sometimes, especially with attacking play, it doesn’t quite click. We know that the patterns that we worked during the week are what we always do, so it’s not that we approach the game in a different way.

“We tried to refresh things to give them a different sort of problem but today our forward play bar the goal and probably Bukayo’s effort that hit the bar wasn’t at the level that it has been in our previous games.”

The Bukayo Saka attempt that was tipped onto the bar by Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan was the closest England came to a winner on a night where they were often passive in possession and toothless in attack.

“I think what I liked was the control of the game that we had when you come into an intense atmosphere like there was,” Southgate said in the bowels of the Tarczynski Arena.

“I thought we played with real composure up until the final third and then I think by the time we scored the goal we’d had over 70 per cent of the ball but that was our first attempt on target.

“So clearly, most of our attacking play wasn’t at the level that we would have hoped it to be. But I thought given the circumstances and the importance of the point in terms of qualification and coming from behind when the crowd are full and the opposition have something to hang on to.

“It’s a very important point for us and we’ve now played the two best ranked teams away from home and we’ve got four points from those two games.”

Despite the frustrating draw, it still remains a case of when rather than if England qualify for the Euros.

Southgate’s men now turn their attention to their friendly away to old foes Scotland on Tuesday, when Ukraine travel to Italy for a key clash in the fight for qualification.

Ukraine head coach Sergey Rebrov said: “The atmosphere was really great – simply amazing. A big thank you to our fans. I thanked my players for their performance, especially in defence.

“It is very difficult to stop such good attacking players as England have, but we did it on many occasions. This is a satisfactory result – another step towards reaching the finals.”

England hit a rare bump on the road to next year’s European Championship as Kyle Walker’s first international goal secured Gareth Southgate’s side a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Poland.

Having opened Group C with four wins from as many matches, it has long looked a case of when rather than if the Euro 2020 runners-up seal their place at next summer’s tournament in Germany.

England had won 21 of their previous 22 Euros qualifiers but had to make do with a point on Saturday evening having failed to build on Walker brilliantly cancelling out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener.

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is targeting his best victory yet as he prepares for a must-win Euro 2024 qualifier against the Netherlands.

The game in Dublin appears to be a make-or break affair for Ireland, who have collected just three points from their first four Group B fixtures and will effectively be out of the race for qualification if they lose to the Dutch.

Memories of a famous Irish victory over the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier in 2001 have inevitably come to the fore in recent days, but Kenny is reluctant to compare his team to the one in which Shay Given, Roy Keane, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane played.

Kenny said: “We’re not comparing ourselves to the team of 2001, they had some of the best players to ever play for Ireland.

“We’re an emerging team. We’ve shown a capacity to raise our game in front of our own support, our impassioned support and we’ve put in some very good performances at home there.

“It’s a game that will challenge us. Holland have players of the highest calibre, players with the top clubs.

“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with some of the best teams and we must raise our game and get our best victory yet as a team. That’s what we’d have to do and that’s the challenge for us.

“We’ll need the supporters to help us do that, we need that energy in the ground. We need that high-octane support to be really passionate and get behind the team and give the players energy.

“All their physical stats are very high after Paris in the heat, a tough game, so to go again, we’ll need everyone to really fire.”

Ireland finalised their preparations at a sunny Abbotstown on Saturday after recovering from Thursday night’s energy-sapping 2-0 defeat in France.

Defender Enda Stevens and forward Will Keane are out of the game through injury and strikers Sinclair Armstrong and Jonathan Afolabi have been drafted into the squad.

Whatever team Kenny picks, the players will know the stakes could hardly be higher with failure simply not an option.

Kenny said: “We know a victory is important for us, we know how important it is, that’s where it is. We’ll prepare well – as well as we can after just coming back on Thursday night – and make sure we’re ready.

“The players are clear on how we’re going to play and we’ll certainly be tested against this team. We’ll have to match them and we are capable of doing that and we have to show the belief and conviction to try to get the win that we need.”

Defender Shane Duffy, who made his first international appearance since June last year in the game at the Parc des Princes, is a veteran of the 1-0 Euro 2016 victory over Italy and knows he and his team-mates need to summon up a similar spirit to get what they need against the Dutch.

Duffy said: “It’s a huge game. Something we’ve to all thrive off and make it another special night as it’s more memories we can create.

“I think personally the games, they’re memories that I talk about to my children, big nights for your country. It’s another chance for us to make it another special night at the Aviva and make more memories.”

Sarina Wiegman is an outstanding coach and could succeed Gareth Southgate as manager of the England men's national team, says former Spain captain Veronica Boquete.

With reports suggesting Southgate may depart after he leads the Three Lions to his fourth major tournament at Euro 2024, various coaches have been touted as potential successors.  

Manchester City's Pep Guardiola is a reported target for the Football Association, but Wiegman's name has also been mentioned after she led the Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory last year.

Wiegman was denied another trophy as England were beaten by Spain in last month's Women's World Cup final, but Boquete remains convinced by her work with the Lionesses.  

The 36-year-old midfielder – who captained her country at the 2015 World Cup – feels Wiegman's name should be in the conversation.

"I think this is going to arrive, there is going to be a moment where a woman will be coaching a high-level [men's] team or national team," Boquete told Stats Perform. "She has already showed that she is a fantastic coach, that she has the knowledge, that she is a leader. So why not? 

"What are they going to say? 'Oh, no, she cannot be the coach of the men's national team' – Why not? She has already proved that she is great. 

"For me, it's about capacities and knowledge and if the players want to be coached by the best. If she is the best, they should give her the chance. 

"Everyone would be supporting her because it would be something fantastic for football but also for society."

Spain's first Women's World Cup win was overshadowed by the behaviour of Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] president Luis Rubiales, who has been provisionally suspended by FIFA after grabbing Jennifer Hermoso and kissing the forward on the lips.

A group of 81 players have refused to represent La Roja if Rubiales remains in post, while head coach Jorge Vilda – who was the subject of a player revolt previously – was sacked a little over two weeks after lifting the World Cup.

Wiegman was praised for speaking out in support of Spain's players upon receiving the UEFA Women's Coach of the Year award in Monaco last week, and her comments further convinced Boquete of her leadership skills. 

"I think her speech was fantastic and it gave hope to so many people to really believe in change," she added.

"It's crazy that the coach of the team that loses the final offered her moment to those players that are in this crazy situation, to defend something in such a strong way. I already had so much respect for her on the sporting side, but obviously now also on the personal side. 

"I consider her a leader, globally, and her words were just fantastic. I think we need to say thanks so many times because it was her moment and we kind of stole it, so we really appreciate it."

Asked about the controversy engulfing women's football in Spain, Boquete claimed her nation had enough talent to win previous World Cups, only to be held back by the RFEF's poor leadership. 

"It is not easy to explain to other countries all the things that are going on behind the scenes," she said. "Everyone will say 'yeah, but you're winning, how is that possible?' 

"I say, yeah, we win because we have a lot of talent. Normally with their clubs, they have better conditioning so they develop and that's great, but can you imagine if everyone was working in the right way a long time ago? We could have been world champions 10 years ago. 

"We were missing a lot of chances. We just want change so that it doesn't happen again and Spain can always be at the top.

"We already had the talent before, we had amazing players that didn't win anything because the people in charge didn't help them develop. So we just want the [right] people on top, so everyone can just be focused on being the best."

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has called on his players to produce the performance of their lives after their Euro 2024 qualification hopes were left dangling by a thread.

A 2-0 Group B defeat in Paris on Thursday evening means Ireland have taken just three points from their first four games, and realistically they need to beat the Netherlands in Dublin on Sunday to stand any chance of progressing.

Speaking in the bowels of the Parc des Princes after an energy-sapping night at the hands of the mesmeric Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, Kenny said: “We’ve just got to get ready for Sunday now.

“We knew that if Holland beat Greece tonight and we beat Holland, we’re level on Sunday. We’ve got Greece at home and Gibraltar away in October, so it’s that big for us. We know it’s that big for us.

“The energy of the home crowd has been special, it’s been electric at home and we need that again on Sunday to pull out the performance of our lives. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Ireland arrived in Paris knowing they were up against it because of the quality of both the opposition and the heat, and while they battled manfully throughout, the gulf in class – Didier Deschamps was able to bring Champions League winners on from his bench while one of Kenny’s substitutes, James McClean, is currently playing his football with League Two Wrexham – eventually told.

Aurelien Tchouameni blasted the French into a 19th-minute lead as Ireland once again conceded from distance, and the side ranked second in the world never looked back against opponents rated 53rd by FIFA.

They increased their lead three minutes after the restart through substitute Marcus Thuram, a first-half replacement for the injured Olivier Giroud, and although it took a good save by Mike Maignan to keep out Chiedozie Ogbene’s header, the Republic had to defend for dear life to ensure the margin of victory did not stretch beyond 2-0.

Kenny said: “To be fair, obviously France are a world-class team, a really top-class international team, one of the best teams in the world, if not the best.

“But I can’t fault my players. I thought they gave everything really in the match. We were beaten by a better team for sure. For a lot of the players it’s the best team they have played against.

“Of course we could have done better at times, for sure, but everyone gave everything of themselves.”

France boss Didier Deschamps admitted his team could have been more clinical, but was largely satisfied.

He said: “We could have done more, but broadly speaking I’m very satisfied with the result and the performance of the players.

“Kylian did good things, even if he didn’t score. It’s not always Olivier Giroud or Kylian Mbappe supposed to score. It’s more about focussing on the goal, to qualify.

“We had many chances to score, especially from outside the box. We were expecting a good team from the Irish team. With their three defenders, they were very present.

“They created some difficult situations for us, especially if you remember the game in Dublin which was a bit risky for us. It’s a team that plays very deep and there were some difficulties.”

Michael O’Neill admitted poor defending cost Northern Ireland dear in a damaging 4-2 defeat to Slovenia but it was another game of fine margins in Ljubljana.

Northern Ireland ended the night having created more chances than their hosts but on the wrong end of the scoreline as they struggled to contain Slovenia’s strike pairing of Benjamin Sesko and Andraz Sporar.

Isaac Price’s first international goal had cancelled out Sporar’s third-minute strike but all too quickly Northern Ireland were behind again when Petar Stojanovic’s strike deflected off Jonny Evans in the 17th minute, with Sesko giving Slovenia breathing space before the break.

Although Evans got O’Neill’s side back into it in the 53rd minute, almost immediately Sporar settled it to deliver what is surely a fatal blow to Northern Ireland’s hopes of progressing from Group H as they lost for a fourth straight match.

But although they conceded four, O’Neill could be happy with the attacking intent showed by his side, with Conor McMenamin carrying the threat after getting the nod on the right wing.

“It was a game full of incident clearly, six goals,” O’Neill said. “I thought we played very well in the game. We defended poorly at times, we struggled to deal with Sesko and Sporar who we knew would be the biggest threat and they proved to be that.

“But we did a lot of good things in the game. Some of the attacking play was very very good, we created a lot of chances and that was the best attacking play we’ve had in the campaign so far. Playing with two wingers helped us with the chances we created.

“The most disappointing thing in the game is how we managed the period in the game from 1-1 to 2-1, I think that was the period where we needed to be stable and we weren’t. Also from 3-2 to 4-2, we conceded too early after the game went to 3-2.

“We were trying to find a way back in the last 15 minutes and asked some questions and again the goalkeeper makes two or three good saves. It was an open game. I was disappointed to lose the game but pleased with a lot of aspects, some of the younger players were terrific.”

There were late chances for McMenamin and substitutes Josh Magennis and Paul Smyth, but although Northern Ireland had more possession and more chances than their hosts, they lacked the sort of firepower offered by RB Leipzig’s Sesko and Sporar of Panathinaikos.

After coming out on the wrong end of three consecutive 1-0 defeats, this was a very different result, but a similar story of Northern Ireland not being outplayed.

“The biggest difference in the game was probably the front two,” O’Neill said. “It’s a big part of the team. I don’t think we saw a lot between the teams on the night but they were clinical.

“Both Sorpar and Sesko were a threat all night. Some of our players were excellent as well and the chances we created, we’re probably disappointed we only scored twice in the game. We have to accept the defeat and move on.”

McMenamin was the brightest spark, with the 28-year-old showing the confidence gained from his summer move from Glentoran to St Mirren.

“Conor had a great game, he was very, very positive from the outset,” O’Neill said. “He’s a player who has come late to international football, late to professional football.

“In the summer he got his first move into the Scottish Premiership and I think he’s made great strides in the space of six to eight weeks he’s been in the there so there’s a lot more in Conor.”

Rob Page believes Wales are heading into their crunch Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia with renewed confidence after holding South Korea to a Cardiff draw.

Wales have now won only once in 13 games, but Page accentuated the positives after a goalless stalemate against opponents who reached the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“There’s lots of positives and we take that momentum and confidence into a tough game on Monday,” Page said after Wales had returned to action following damaging Euro 2024 qualifying defeats by Armenia and Turkey in June.

“JJ (Jordan James) has had a very good debut and he’s had that experience under his belt against a world-class team.

“It’s building confidence ahead of Monday and getting rid of the disappointment of June’s camp.

“They’ve reacted in a positive way. We’ve had meetings through the week regards to the defenders and the goals we’ve conceded.

“We’ve kept a clean sheet against a technically good team with one of the best strikers (Son Heung-min) in world football, and at the end we could have won it 1-0 with Kieffer’s header.”

Substitute Kieffer Moore almost broke the deadlock after 66 minutes when his header came back off a post.

Skipper Aaron Ramsey, who has just entered the action on the hour, was unable to prod home the rebound from a yard out.

Brennan Johnson played the first 45 minutes after completing a £47.5million move from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham on deadline day as Page selected a far stronger side than most had expected before their Latvia test in Riga.

Page said: “There’s been lots said since the last camp. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. It’s not a problem.

“I know what I’ve got in the changing room and the staff room. It’s about winning games of football, I get that. The transition we’re in, we’ve lost some world-class players.

“You would have seen the reaction of the players. I’m really pleased with them.

“I’m proud of how we defended. That was back to our identity.

“That’s the level of performance we reached in March, away against Croatia and at home against Latvia.

“We didn’t meet those standards in June and that’s what disappointed me the most, but we were back to those standards here.”

Jurgen Klinsmann was appointed as South Korea head coach in February and has failed to win any of his five games in charge – drawing three and losing two.

“It was a very good test for us and I am pleased with what the players showed,” said Klinsmann, the former Germany and United States boss.

“Wales had a back five that was very difficult to break. As a team we want to see development, we want to see them grow and every game helps us.

“This is the moment in these friendly games to try these things out, you can see that the team has changed since my first game in March.”

James Maddison was turned into a YouTube star by his father and now the Tottenham man is hoping his next highlight reel can compare to those of the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney as he targets success with England.

As Maddison rose up through the Coventry academy his story was documented by his dad Gary – who launched his own YouTube channel in 2006 to showcase his son’s burgeoning ability.

The five videos available on the channel – @gazmaddy – have amassed over 175,000 views in total.

Gary had earlier put together compilations of his favourite players, with Maddison glued to the screen as a boy watching edited clips of Gascoigne.

Maddison, 26, admits he is not old enough to remember Gascoigne in his pomp, but his father made up for that.

“My dad used to put football videos together. He is a graphic designer and is good with computers and stuff,” he said.

“He used to put montages together and stuff and Gazza features on a lot of them, so I remember a lot of his clips.”

Maddison has excelled since joining Spurs from Leicester in the summer and has taken on the role of entertainer in the Tottenham team – a tag Gascoigne always enjoyed during his stint at White Hart Lane.

“Growing up, I was a footie fan. Before you become a professional, you are a fan of the game and I loved players who had personality,” he said.

“I loved watching players who had a little bit of cheekiness about them, a little bit more than your bog-standard. I’m not sure what I mean by bog-standard but I like players who show their personality when they play.

“Gazza was a perfect example. For example, something silly… I remember a clip where the cameras are going down the national anthem and it gets to him and he sticks his tongue out and starts messing around with the camera and going all bog-eyed – and I just love that. That’s why I like interacting with fans and showing my personality.

“I like the theatre element of almost being the villain a little bit. That keeps me at my best. That’s how I enjoyed watching it and that’s how enjoy playing it.”

Maddison, who will be aiming to add to his three senior England caps in the upcoming games against Ukraine and Scotland, cited former captain Rooney among a number of more contemporary examples of the players he looks up to.

“I love Wayne Rooney and in more recent times when I started to know a little more about football and we were in the academy and there was more of a realistic chance of becoming a footballer,” he added.

“I loved Philippe Coutinho when he was at Liverpool and David Silva, who had 10 brilliant years at (Manchester) City. Christian Eriksen when he first came to Spurs. I would probably say Rooney was the big one in my childhood. I used to love Wazza.

“Again, he was someone who played with personality. He was a bit more feisty than me – a bit harder into a tackle – but his personality and the way he came through in the way he played. And that’s what I enjoy.”

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Injury, form and fierce competition have limited Maddison to a bit-part playing role on the international stage to date.

After playing down suggestions of any previous rift with manager Gareth Southgate, he admits travelling to the World Cup and not being able to play because of a niggling knee complaint has given him even more reason to feature at Euro 2024.

“It definitely gave me motivation for Germany,” he said of his non-playing stint in Qatar.

“I was so proud to be there representing my country. Gareth gave me a massive compliment as we were leaving. He said he knew it has been tough with the injury and not featuring, but he was really impressed with the way I had carried myself round the group.

“Him putting his arm around me and saying that as we were leaving stuck with me. I made a conscious effort not to be down, even though I was at the World Cup and I wanted to play for England. It has given me a hunger. I just want more and more.

“I’ve been ready for a long time, in my head. But there is so much talent here, such a great squad of players in terms of pure ability and talent. We see it in training every day – the standard is so high and it’s brilliant to be a part of.”

Aurelien Tchouameni and Marcus Thuram left the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 dream hanging by a thread as France maintained their perfect start to qualification with a regulation 2-0 win in Paris.

The pair struck either side of half-time at the Parc des Princes to claim a fifth successive Group B victory and leave Ireland with just three points from their first four games, a statistic which means Sunday’s clash with the Netherlands in Dublin could all but decide their fate.

Stephen Kenny’s men were organised and dogged, but with Ousmane Dembele tormenting Enda Stevens to such an extent that he was replaced at half-time and Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann delighting a passionate home crowd, were unable to cause the hosts enough problems with the notable exception of a Chiedozie Ogbene header which prompted a fine save from Mike Maignan.

Much had been made in France ahead of the game of Ireland keeper Gavin Bazunu’s propensity to concede from distance, but there was little he could have done to keep out Tchouameni’s sweetly-struck 19th-minute shot, and he was left exposed as substitute Thuram extended the lead after 48 minutes.

While the outcome in Paris was never likely to define their campaign, June’s defeat in Greece left Ireland up against it and a repeat against the Dutch would effectively extinguish all hope.

France set off in determined fashion, Adrien Rabiot thumping a shot into Bazunu’s midriff from Dembele’s pull-back before John Egan had to make a vital block to keep out Olivier Giroud’s strike after Theo Hernandez had out-stripped the cover down the Irish right.

Mbappe might have done better from the resulting corner, scooping a tame attempt over the top after Adam Idah had taken Griezmann’s corner out of Bazunu’s reach, and the Ireland keeper was relieved to see the Atletico Madrid star’s swinging 15th-minute free-kick smuggled away after it reared up at him off the turf having sailed through a crowded penalty area.

However, he was beaten four minutes later when, after Griezmann had headed down for Dembele, his cross was headed away by Nathan Collins only for Mbappe to recycle the loose ball to Tchouameni, who curled a delicious shot across the Southampton keeper and inside the far post from 25 yards.

Giroud departed injured after going to ground under Egan’s 24th-minute challenge and was replaced by Thuram and with Mbappe dropping deep to pick up possession, the visitors found themselves under almost constant pressure, with Ogbene’s occasional, but largely unsupported, forays down the right their only meaningful outlet.

Bazunu fielded a speculative effort from Mbappe comfortably, but was relieved to see an offside flag come to his rescue after the Paris St Germain star had stabbed a 42nd-minute shot between his legs.

Stevens departed at the break to be replaced by James McClean, but his side fell further behind within three minutes of the restart when, after Mbappe had failed to make the most of a Theo Hernandez cross, Thuram span on the lose ball to rifle into the roof of the net.

With little left to lose, the Republic threw caution to the wind and might have reduced the deficit from Ogbene’s header but for Maignan’s brilliance after Idah had beaten the offside trap, and the Luton striker curled a left-foot shot inches over seconds later as the anxious keeper could only look on.

Ireland’s new-found sense of adventure left them vulnerable at the back and Mbappe’s blushes were spared by a late offside flag after he had missed the target in a one-on-one battle with Bazunu, who then did well to parry another Tchouameni piledriver 23 minutes from time.

Dembele rattled the upright from a tight angle with France in cruise control, and only stout defence, a series of less than effective final balls and a bad miss by Thuram spared the visitors further damage.

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