Rob Page acknowledged Wales' fans are "entitled" to be frustrated after they were held to a shock goalless draw by Gibraltar.

Page was jeered by sections of the travelling supporters at Estadio Do Algarve, where the youthful Dragons were unable to break down the nation ranked 203rd in the world.

Gibraltar had lost each of their 13 previous matches by an aggregate score of 50-0, but managed to hold out for a memorable draw against the Euro 2016 semi-finalists.

Despite registering 16 shots and having an xG of 1.13, the closest Wales came to scoring was when Josh Sheehan's inswinging corner came back off the crossbar.

It marked another disappointment for Wales, who failed to qualify for Euro 2024 after their play-off defeat to Poland on penalties in March.

Page understands the frustrations of the supporters - some of whom called for him to leave - but insists he remains focused on "the long-term plan" and his side's return to competitive action in three months' time.

"They are entitled to their opinion, absolutely. I get it, I completely get it," Page said when asked about being booed.

"I'm a Welsh supporter as well as the manager, I'm disappointed. But I have to keep saying about the bigger picture, and I'll probably get criticised for that. It's the bigger picture, and we're not going to lose focus on what we've done."

"If you've got a business plan and a long-term plan, you can't be emotional. It's a draw against a Gibraltar team that we're really disappointed with, and our focus is on getting the team and squad ready for September to win Nations League games."

Gibraltar ended their longest-ever losing run following a 0-0 draw with Wales, a team ranked 174 places above them in the FIFA rankings.

Julio Cesar Ribas' side had not won since seeing off Andorra 1-0 back in November 2022.

Since then, they had lost all 13 of their matches by an aggregate score of 0-50. 

Yet Gibraltar proved rock solid against a youthful Wales team on Thursday, with Josh Sheehan's inswining corner coming back off the crossbar in the visitors' best opportunity.

Indeed, Wales failed to truly trouble Gibraltar goalkeeper Jaylan Hankins otherwise, despite registering 16 shots and having an xG of 1.13. 

Wales did, though, equal their longest unbeaten run in Robert Page's tenure in all competitions (W4 D5), the last time they managed that was between September 2021 and March 2022 (nine games – W4 D5).

Data Debrief: Page gives the kids a chance but away woes rumble on

Away from home in all competitions, Wales have won just three of their 14 games under Page (D5 L6), while in that time they have only scored 3+ goals once before, against Belarus in September 2021. 

Charlie Crew's 78th-minute introduction, meanwhile, saw him equal the record as the youngest player to play for Wales since Leeds United team-mate Ethan Ampadu against the Republic of Ireland in September at 17 years and 357 days old. 

Second-half goals from Ryan Christie and Che Adams secured a 2-0 victory over Gibraltar in a pre-Euro 2024 friendly, ending a seven-game winless run. 

Adams added some gloss to the scoreline late on, latching onto John McGinn's cross to rifle into the top corner after Ryan Christie had put them ahead in the 58th minute.

In the first half, it looked like it was not going to be Scotland's day, as they wastefully spurned a host of chances, with Grant Hanley failing to convert a hat-trick of opportunities.

Though they ended their winless run, there was still cause for concern for Steve Clarke as Liam Cooper, on as a half-time substitute, was forced off injured in the 77th minute.

Data Debrief: Ending goal droughts

Christie's opener was his first goal for Scotland in 15 international appearances since netting against Republic of Ireland in September 2022.

Meanwhile, Adams is making a case to start in the Euros after Lyndon Dykes was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury. He scored his sixth goal for Scotland on his 30th appearance, and his first since June 2022 against Armenia. 

Scotland will prepare for the 2024 European Championships with a friendly double-header against Gibraltar and Finland.

Steve Clarke’s side will take on Gibraltar in the Estadio Algarve, Portugal, on Monday, June 3 before a send-off game against Finland at Hampden Park four days later.

It will be the last match action before the Scots head off to Germany for this summer’s Euros where they will face the hosts on June 14 before games against Switzerland and Hungary.

Scotland take on the Netherland and Northern Ireland in two March friendlies while Clarke also confirmed their team base camp for the Euros in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Clarke, assistant John Carver and performance director Graeme Jones visited the base camp last week, which lies at the foot of Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze, and will be the squad’s headquarters for the duration of the campaign.

Scotland will stay at Obermuhle, a 120-room luxury resort that combines modern specification and alpine lifestyle with the tradition of being a family-owned establishment for the last century.

The team training ground is a short walk from the hotel and the delegation were greeted warmly by district administrator Anton Speer and Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s Mayor, Elisabeth Koch.

Clarke told scottishfa.co.uk: “It was important for us to finalise our preparations for Euro 2024 as soon as possible and I’m very pleased to have confirmed our final friendly matches and secured our first-choice base camp for the tournament.

“Garmisch-Partenkirchen will make for a comfortable base for our players and backroom staff for the duration of our stay at the tournament and the warm welcome we have received from the local community so far bodes well for when we are in camp there this summer.

“With Gibraltar and Finland confirmed as the final opposition before we take on Germany in the opening match of the tournament my players and coaching staff can now concentrate on ensuring we are in the best shape possible for it.

“I am particularly pleased that our final match before the tournament will be at Hampden and I am looking forward to experiencing what I am sure will be a raucous atmosphere in front of a full house of Scotland supporters that evening.”

Graeme Jones, Scottish FA performance director, said: “From the moment we qualified, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was our preferred location for team base camp and to be honest, I was more excited that the draw enabled us to have our first pick than I was at playing the opening match.

“The priority is making sure the players have the best preparation possible for the Euros and Obermuhle gives us a perfect balance of first-class facilities and a breathtaking, tranquil setting for the players to focus on the challenges ahead.

“The hotel staff, the Mayor and district administrator could not have been more welcoming during the site visit and now that the base camp is confirmed, we look forward to building up to the Euros starting with our matches against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland in March.”

France thrashed 10-man Gibraltar 14-0 in Nice for a record international win to close in on a top seed for Euro 2024.

Les Bleus had already qualified as winners of Group B, and showed no signs of letting up against Gibraltar – who scored an early own goal before defender Ethan Santos was shown a red card for a late tackle on 17-year-old debutant Warren Zaire-Emery.

Following the red card for Santos, who had put the ball in his own net after just three minutes, France were relentless, with Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick, Kingsley Coman netting twice and substitute Olivier Giroud hitting a late brace.

Paris St Germain midfielder Zaire-Emery had set a new record as France’s youngest post-war debutant, aged 17 and 255 days.

France were soon on the offensive and raced into a 2-0 lead, both own goals, inside the first five minutes.

Jonathan Clauss got clear down the right and cut the ball back across the six-yard box where Santos stabbed it into his own net.

Before Gibraltar could regroup, they fell further behind.

As goalkeeper Dayle Coleing saved Antoine Griezmann’s shot, the rebound looked to have gone in off Aymen Mouelhi with Marcus Thuram close behind him. The Inter Milan forward was later credited with the goal.

France, aiming to seal their place as one of the five top seeds in Germany next summer, continued to press, with Mbappe firing over.

Zaire-Emery then clipped home a cross from Coman at the near post to become France’s second youngest international scorer after Maurice Gastiger in 1914.

The teenager took a blow to his ankle from Santos when tucking the ball home. English referee John Brooks was advised by VAR to take a review of the over-the-top challenge on the pitchside monitor, which resulted in a red card for the Gibraltar defender.

France were taking no risks with Zaire-Emery, who was swiftly substituted in the 20th minute and replaced by Youssouf Fofana.

On the half-hour mark, a VAR review saw France given a penalty for handball by Lee Casciaro. Mbappe knocked the spot-kick in off the post to make it 4-0.

It was relentless stuff from the hosts, who scored three more within as many minutes through Clauss’ powerful strike, then Coman knocked a loose ball in before Fofana drove a low shot under bewildered Gibraltar keeper Coleing.

Gibraltar made it to half-time without further damage and then held out through the hour mark despite soaking up plenty of pressure from France, who sensed the chance of a record win.

Adrien Rabiot shot home a loose ball in the 63rd minute, with Coman then getting his second for number nine.

Gibraltar’s heaviest loss was confirmed when substitute Ousmane Dembele added a 10th goal for France, who soon secured a record win when Mbappe knocked in an 11th from close range with 15 minutes left.

Olivier Giroud stepped off the bench to drill a low shot into the far corner – but after a lengthy VAR review and check of the monitor by the referee, the goal was ruled out for offside.

France, though, soon had a 12th when Mbappe clipped in a wonderful chip over a backpedalling Coleing from 30 yards to complete his hat-trick.

Giroud drilled the ball in after a chest down from Griezmann, which this time did count. The AC Milan forward swiftly rifled home another in stoppage time as France eclipsed Germany’s record European Championship qualifying win over San Marino in September 2006.

France forward Kylian Mbappe is backing Paris St Germain midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery to become a future international star ahead of the visit of Gibraltar in Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier.

France are heavy favourites to make it seven wins from seven when they face Gibraltar at the Allianz Riviera and have all-but qualified for Euro 2024, while only conceding one goal so far in the qualifying phase.

Zaire-Emery, 17, is set to make his international debut after an impressive start to the Ligue 1 campaign, where he has scored two goals and claimed two assists in 11 appearances so far.

Mbappe, who made his debut in 2017 at the age of 18, has tipped his club team-mate to go far.

He told a press conference, as quoted on getfootballnewsfrance.com: “He is fascinating. He is already very mature and he plays with a lot of personality.

“He is a modern midfielder, who isn’t scared of going forward with the ball. What we have to do is accompany him. I don’t have any advice to give him because he is learning very quickly and on his own.

“Seventeen years old, it’s the same age as my brother (Ethan Mbappe), it’s mad. I’m not old, but it makes me feel a bit old! The guy arrives and does his homework.”

Mbappe was heavily linked with a move away from PSG in the summer but has enjoyed a bright start to the season with 15 goals to his name across all competitions so far.

The 24-year old insists he plays in different roles compared to club and country and demands the best of himself every game.

He continued: “I’m a player who’s very demanding of himself, so when I find that demand from my coaches then I’m very happy.

“I don’t need my manager to tell me I’m the best player in the world every day.

“(France head coach Didier) Deschamps is all about adapting to opponents, which means I’m a different player. That allows me to broaden my range. I can still improve and broaden my range.

“Here, the coach gives me total freedom on the left flank. (PSG boss) Luis Enrique gives me more structure. I’m adapting to all these schemes and with the two great coaches I have, it’s in my interest to listen to them.”

Callum Robinson is convinced the Republic of Ireland are heading in the right direction despite their disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Ireland will not be in Germany for next summer’s finals – barring an unlikely series of results elsewhere which could hand them a second chance via the play-offs – after taking just six points from their first seven Group B fixtures, with just a tough trip to the Netherlands next month to come.

That has left manager Stephen Kenny fighting for his job, but Cardiff striker Robinson believes the foundations the 51-year-old has put in place since succeeding Mick McCarthy in April 2021 could yet pay dividends.

Speaking after Monday night’s 4-0 victory over Gibraltar in Faro, the 28-year-old said: “There’s so much potential and it’s a hard one for everybody to hear, but I think we’ve come a long way, football-wise.

“Now it’s getting over the other side by getting wins and three points. It’s been disappointing that we haven’t got the results we wanted, but if you look from the time the gaffer came in, it’s been chalk and cheese. We’re playing much better football.

“But it’s about bringing all of it together, being the team that’s hard to beat, scores goals and get wins.”

Kenny’s masterplan has been to overhaul his squad – he has handed out 20 debuts and used 52 different players in his time at the helm – with many of the newcomers elevated from the under-21 ranks.

The average age of the starting line-up at the Estadio Algarve was a little under 25.4; that figure was in excess of 28.8 for McCarthy’s final fixture against Denmark in November 2019.

However, whatever progress Kenny believes has been made has not been reflected in results, with the win in Faro just his sixth in 28 competitive matches and only one of note, a 3-0 Nations League victory over Scotland.

But Robinson said: “I can remember when I first joined the squad, everyone was saying that we weren’t playing enough football, just hitting it up there and hoping.

“That’s not so long ago, only five years ago. We nicked results, but it wasn’t enjoyable to watch. Now we’re playing good football and it’s about bringing that balance, being good in both boxes.”

 

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Robinson was one of Ireland’s goalscorers in Faro, marking the latest stage in his re-emergence from a long-term hamstring injury which was followed by a back problem and in the meantime, he has seen 18-year-old Evan Ferguson, who also found the back of the net on Monday evening, take his chance with both hands.

Asked about the competition, the older man said: “That’s football and he’s flying. I’m here to help. It’s competition and we’ll push each other.

“He’s a young kid, but is coming on leaps and bounds watching him week in, week out and he’s been nominated for the (European) Golden Boy (Award).

“He’s level-headed and if he stays the way he is off the pitch, he’ll have an unbelievable career.”

Stephen Kenny is thinking only of the Republic of Ireland’s final Euro 2024 qualifier in the Netherlands after avoiding a potential banana skin against Gibraltar.

Monday evening’s 4-0 win over Group B’s basement boys handed Ireland just a second victory in seven attempts in qualification, and they will head for Amsterdam next month to face a Dutch side still to secure a place at next summer’s finals.

That game and the friendly against New Zealand which follows it seem likely to be Kenny’s last at the helm, with his contract due to expire at the end of the campaign.

 

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However, asked after the victory at the Estadio Algarve if that would be it for him, Kenny said: “That’s out of my control, I can’t affect that. For me, I’ve got to try and get a result in Amsterdam.

 

“It’s a big game. Holland need to win to qualify. They will be flying. We’ve got to put a performance in against Holland in Amsterdam. It’s a big challenge, it’s one we are looking forward to. Out of that, it’s out of my control.

“I honestly don’t know. It may well be. I’ll give it everything against Holland and New Zealand. There’s no doubt, of course I want to be the manager of Ireland. It’s brilliant.”

Kenny has found himself under intense pressure since Friday night’s 2-0 home defeat by Greece – who also won the reverse fixture in Athens 2-1 – which ended Ireland’s hopes of automatic qualification.

The 51-year-old, who insisted before the game that he was not considering resigning, said: “I understand the Greek results, I understand that. Losing to Greece, that’s a 50-50 game. We lost it. There’s a lot of criticism because of that.

“That’s OK. There’s also been a lot of good football that people shouldn’t forget either.”

Evan Ferguson’s early strike set Kenny’s men on their way in Faro before Mikey Johnston made it 2-0 at the break, and second-half strikes from Matt Doherty and substitute Callum Robinson completed a win which was every bit as regulation as it should have been against a side who have now played 44 Euro and World Cup qualifiers and are yet to collect a point.

The manager was delighted with the way his players responded to the defeat by the Greeks.

He said: “We’re disappointed having lost the game on Friday. To put that behind them and to train and get themselves ready in a professional way and then work the openings for the goals in a very clever way, it made the finishes easier.

“The players deserve credit because it was a professional job on the night, a good performance. We could have got a lot more goals.”

Kenny was particularly pleased with Celtic winger Johnston’s contribution as he claimed a second senior international goal on his first start for his country.

He said: “Mikey Johnston, he needs games. The tempo of that game isn’t Greece and Holland. He is a talent, he will be a good player for Ireland.”

Stephen Kenny will not allow speculation over his future to become a distraction as the Republic of Ireland attempt to end a dismal Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on a positive note.

Ireland face Group B minnows Gibraltar in Faro on Monday evening in their penultimate fixture, having won only one of the six which have preceded it with automatic qualification now beyond them and retaining only a slim chance of reaching the play-offs after Friday night’s 2-0 defeat by Greece.

That has inevitably led to calls for the manager’s head, with the Republic having missed out on the finals of every major tournament since Euro 2016.

However, asked if that noise might prove a distraction, Kenny, who last week received assurances from Football Association of Ireland chief executive Jonathan Hill, said: “No.

“I have to be realistic. Jonathan Hill perfectly clarified it when he said that ‘Stephen would be the manager until the games in November’, and they’ll have a review and assess that.

“At the moment, that’s out of my control. In this camp, it was important to try and win against Greece. We haven’t managed to do that, I understand that, that it’s not a good result for us.

“But from my point of view, I am contracted to the end of the campaign so I just want to finish the campaign strong. If there is a play-off, we can assess that, but finish the campaign strong and take it from there.”

Ireland’s only win so far came against Gibraltar in June, when goals from Mikey Johnston, Evan Ferguson and Adam Idah secured a 3-0 victory which was less comfortable than the scoreline suggests.

Anything other than a repeat against a team which has lost all of its 43 European and World Cup qualifiers to date would represent fresh humiliation for an Ireland side which went down 1-0 at home to Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier in March 2021.

However for Kenny, even that would do little to quell the tide of discontent which has swamped the positivity he had managed to establish after a shaky start in the job by convincing Ireland fans his new-look team would both excite them and get results.

While they have at times done the former – but sadly, not recently – the have been largely unable to achieve the latter and have the Netherlands awaiting in next month’s final qualifier.

He said: “We all have to get results, we understand that. I came into this camp thinking if we can get six points, we possibly have a chance to take it to Amsterdam, going into the last game.

“We are hugely disappointed – we are, no doubt – to lose the game. What we have to do now is to perform tomorrow and win the game, and take that into November.”

For Ireland’s players, the game represents an opportunity to take out their frustration on one of European football’s smaller nations.

Midfielder Josh Cullen said: “Obviously the campaign hasn’t gone how we wanted it to. As players, the motivation is the same in every game.

“The chance to play for your country is something that should never be taken for granted. Whether that’s against France or Gibraltar, you approach it with the same mindset, and we are itching to get back out there tomorrow night and get a win for our country.”

The Republic of Ireland embark upon a face-saving mission in Faro on Monday evening when they attempt to secure just a second Euro 2024 qualifier victory at the seventh time of asking.

Anything but a comfortable win over Group B minnows Gibraltar, the only team Stephen Kenny’s men have beaten to date during a desperately disappointing campaign, would invite derision with automatic qualification gone and a play-off place an unlikely source of salvation.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game at the Estadio Algarve.

The end is nigh

Stephen Kenny launched his reign as Ireland manager on twin promises to overhaul an ageing squad and play a more exciting brand of football. He has delivered the former and achieved only partial success with the latter. Unfortunately for him, any progress has not been translated into results and as he heads into what seems certain to be his penultimate competitive game, he has won only five of the 27 which have preceded it.

So near, so Faro

While the Republic of Ireland’s last away game against Gibraltar – a 1-0 Euro 2020 qualifier win at the Victoria Stadium in March 2019 – was played on the rock itself, the sides have met previously at the Estadio Algarve. Robbie Keane’s double and goals from Cyrus Christie and Shane Long secured a 4-0 Euro 2016 qualifier victory in September 2015. However, their most recent visit to the stadium in September 2021 had a nasty twist in the tail when Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp double overhauled John Egan’s header to hand Portugal a 2-1 World Cup qualifier win.

Fergie time?

Ireland hope they have found a new talisman for years to come in the shape of 18-year-old Brighton striker Evan Ferguson. The teenager was left painfully isolated for long periods against Greece after hitting the post early on, and he will hope for better service as he attempts to add to his two senior international goals – the last of them against Gibraltar – in seven appearances to date against a significantly more porous defence.

Winging it

Celtic winger Mikey Johnston has not kicked a ball in anger for his club yet this season after being laid low by a back injury during the summer. Kenny threw him on for the last 20 minutes against the Greeks in an effort to add creativity to his labouring side and, while he remains short of match fitness, Monday’s game could be the perfect opportunity for him to launch his season. The Republic lacked inspiration on Friday evening and Johnston provided just that in a second-half cameo in the reverse fixture, in which he scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win.

No points, no goals

In many respects, Ireland could not have chosen a better opponent for a game they simply have to win. Gibraltar have lost their last seven – a run culminating in Wednesday night’s 4-0 friendly defeat in Wales – without scoring and have conceded a total of 17 goals and collected no points in their five Group B fixtures to date. They last found the back of the net in a 1-0 friendly victory over Andorra in November.

New Wales cap Regan Poole admits he owes so much to Manchester United after making his international debut on Wednesday night.

Defender Poole seemed destined for stardom in 2015 after leaving Newport aged 17, on the same day United made Anthony Martial football’s most expensive teenager.

But Poole’s first-team action at Old Trafford was restricted to an 89th-minute substitute appearance in a 2016 Champions League tie – a 5-1 win over Danish club Midtjylland, in which England striker Marcus Rashford announced himself with two goals on debut.

Poole would be loaned out to Northampton and Newport before signing for MK Dons, Lincoln and Portsmouth, where he has hit the ground running with three goals in 12 appearances for the Sky Bet League One leaders.

“It’s always been my aim to win that cap,” Poole said after helping Wales to a 4-0 friendly win over Gibraltar in Wrexham, ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia.

“I’m 25 and I’ve had to wait a little while to get it, but hopefully there are many more to come.

“I had the experience of playing for the under-21s a few times and got called up there.

“It went quiet for a little while, but I’ve had a really positive start for my new club and hopefully I can stay in the squad.”

Cardiff-born Poole became Newport’s youngest-ever player in 2014 upon making his debut at the age of 16 and 94 days.

Poole’s performances soon had Premier League scouts flocking to Rodney Parade and he eventually headed for Old Trafford for a £100,000 fee, with attached add-ons taking it to a potential £500,000.

“I was at such a young age when the move came about,” said Poole.

“It was such a shock, but it was something I had to do. I look back on my time there and they improved me so much as a person and as a player.

“I don’t regret it in a way because I had to do it. I loved my time there and I think it’s showing now how much they improved me.

“I was training with such good players and that’s shown in my career.”

On his brief time as a United first-team player, Poole added: “That’s something I look back on with great pride.

“I know it was only one game but I can say that I played for Manchester United and not many people can say that. So I look back on that and think ‘well done’.

“Marcus scored two in that game and then I came on late. He was a good friend of mine at the time and he’s gone on to do such great things.”

Poole is determined to play at the top level again and believes that is possible at Portsmouth.

He said: “I’m loving it down there. We’ve started so brightly and we’re looking for promotion.

“We’re trying to get the football club back to where it belongs. Why can’t we do it at Portsmouth?

“Ipswich are doing really well (in the Championship after going up from League One last season) and if we can get promoted, why not?

“Portsmouth is a Premier League football club and should never be in League One.

“I believe I can play in the Premier League. If you don’t think that, you’re in the wrong sport.”

Rob Page has revealed Charlie Savage will be staying with the Wales squad for the Euro 2024 qualifier with Croatia on Sunday.

Savage, the 20-year-old son of former Wales midfielder Robbie, made his full senior debut on Wednesday as the Dragons cruised to a 4-0 friendly win over Gibraltar in Wrexham.

The Reading midfielder was due to join up with the under-21 side ahead of their European Championship qualifier away to the Czech Republic on Friday.

But Savage and Wycombe central defender Joe Low – who also made his senior debut against Gibraltar – will remain with Page’s squad ahead of the vital Croatia clash in Cardiff.

“We’ll keep Savage and Joe, not just off the back of tonight,” said Wales manager Page. “They’ve done themselves the world of good.

“Sav has earned the right to be with us and I’ve got a lot of time for Joe.

“He’s earned the right to be there with injuries we’ve got.”

Savage claimed an assist for a Kieffer Moore header as Wales brushed aside Gibraltar with all four goals coming in the first half.

Bournemouth striker Moore scored twice to take his Wales goals tally to 12, the same number as Ryan Giggs and one fewer than John Toshack.

Ben Davies, who wore the armband in the absence of injured captain Aaron Ramsey, and Nathan Broadhead were also on target.

“He has taken my advice and left,” Page said of Savage’s move from Manchester United to Sky Bet League One outfit Reading in the summer.

“It must have been hard for him. I spoke to Rob who had to leave United to go to Crewe. It’s no different for Charlie.

“He did it because he’s playing week in week out in competitive football. He trains as he plays and has personality. We blocked Robbie from speaking to him all week which was a big achievement.

“Joking aside, Rob has got his back, he’ll look after him. He’s got his feet on the ground.

“Sav’s best position is an old-fashioned box to box eight. The ball for Kieffer was first class, right on his head. He showed he can do both sides of it and he’s a great talent.”

Wales’ comfortable win saw them secure back-to-back victories for the first time since November 2021.

“The results were not great in June, but it’s how you bounce back and we did that in September with class (winning 2-0 in Latvia),” Page said.

“The environment is brilliant. We won’t get carried away beating Gibraltar, but I see work in progress.

“My challenge to them was to be clinical and we were. We have to put it all together on Sunday.

“We picked a team here knowing what we’ll face on Sunday.

“From the first minute on camp we knew the team we’d pick here and we know the team on Sunday. We are ready and can’t wait for Sunday’s game.”

Wes Burns has returned to Ipswich and will be assessed by his club after the wing-back suffered an arm injury that forced him off in the early stages against Gibraltar.

Wales warmed up for Euro 2024 qualifying action by cruising to a 4-0 win over Gibraltar in Wrexham.

All the goals came in the first half as Kieffer Moore scored twice with Ben Davies and Nathan Broadhead also getting on the scoresheet.

After last month’s victory in Latvia, it was the first time Wales had achieved back-to-back wins since November 2021.

The performance, especially the opening period, will encourage Wales manager Rob Page ahead of the vital qualifier against Croatia on Sunday, even if Gibraltar’s standing in world football must be taken into account.

This was the maiden meeting between the two nations at senior level and also marked Wales’ return to the SToK Racecourse for the first time since beating Trinidad and Tobago there in 2019.

The Football Association of Wales were rewarded with a sell-out crowd of 10,008 as fans in the north showed their appetite to support the national team.

Page rested several regulars with the Croatia fixture in mind, when Wales will realistically need at least a point to keep alive hopes of automatic qualification for next summer’s European Championship finals in Germany.

Davies took over the captaincy in the absence of the injured Aaron Ramsey, the Tottenham defender winning his 81st cap as Gibraltar played the 81st match in their history.

Charlie Savage, the 20-year-old son of former Wales midfielder Robbie, Joe Low, Regan Poole and Liam Cullen were handed first caps.

Savage, in particular, could be satisfied with his night’s work as he showed composure in possession and exhibited a good range of passing.

Gibraltar came into the game 198th in the world with only nine nations below them on FIFA’s rankings table.

Preparing to play the Republic of Ireland in Euro qualification on Monday, Gibraltar had suffered six straight defeats and not scored since a 1-0 friendly win over Andorra 11 months ago.

The loudest cheer in the opening minutes came when Savage evoked memories of his father with a crunching, but fair, challenge on Tjay De Barr that left the Gibraltar forward on the floor.

Broadhead was off target with a couple of efforts before Wales took the lead after 22 minutes from an unlikely source.

Skipper Davies rose highest from Broadhead’s corner and Gibraltar’s fallibility in the air was punished again when Moore met Savage’s cross to score expertly off a post.

Daniel James, on early for the injured Wes Burns, was causing havoc down the left and forced a sprawling save from Dayle Coleing.

The over-worked Gibraltar goalkeeper also denied Savage twice and Liam Walker cleared another Davies effort off the line.

Broadhead then took James’ 35th-minute pass and turned smartly to find the top corner of Coleing’s net with a sweet right-footed strike.

Cullen twice went close and the fourth arrived on the stroke of half-time as James scampered free again to deliver a perfect cross for the waiting head of Moore.

Page made a raft of substitutions at half-time and the contest lost much of its rhythm.

The changes also removed the possibility of Wales eclipsing their record 11-0 win against Ireland in 1888.

Tom Bradshaw was inches from connecting with a Josh Sheehan cross that flashed across goal, but the second half was largely a nondescript affair.

James shook the crowd from their slumber with an angled effort that rattled the woodwork, but Wales had already achieved their objectives heading into Sunday.

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has urged his young hopefuls to learn from veteran James McClean after he announced his impending retirement from international football.

The 34-year-old Wrexham midfielder revealed his intention to end his time with Ireland after 102 caps, 11 goals and two European Championship campaigns following next month’s friendly against New Zealand on Thursday morning.

Hours later, international boss Kenny, who first managed the player as a youngster at Derry City, paid tribute to both his quality and intensity after naming a 24-man squad which did not include him for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Greece and Gibraltar.

 

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Kenny said: “He’s had a terrific career, James. Young Irish players can learn a lot from him, how he approached his career. Ireland was always at the forefront of his thoughts, it was always the pinnacle for him and it was always the most important thing, to play for his country. You had to respect that.

“From my point of view as a manager – obviously I managed him as a teenager, gave him his debut and then sold him to Sunderland. But people change in that period and obviously he’s a different personality then when I managed the Irish team (Derry) because he’s in his 30s by the time I take up the Ireland team, so he’s a different personality.

“But if there are any grey areas about who might play in the team sometimes and decisions are not made and depending on who’s available, he’s so forceful in his training performances, sometimes he gets himself in the team by just his sheer intensity in his training in the sessions.

“It’s hard to ignore him then, when someone trains like that, in the games.”

Derry-born former Sunderland, Wigan, West Brom and Stoke man McClean, who has repeatedly found himself at the centre of controversy over his decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on his club shirt, had earlier spoken of his pride at representing his country over 11 years.

 

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He said in a statement issued on social media: “It has the meant the absolute world and more to be able to pull on the green jersey with honour, step out onto a football pitch – especially at the Aviva Stadium – to represent our great country, standing singing Amhran na bhFiann ready to go out into battle with your fellow countrymen.

“Nothing has ever come close. I gave absolutely everything I had of myself to ensure that I did the jersey, the fans and the country proud, and know that I never took it for granted each time. I hope that showed.

“It will be heartbreaking not to be involved beyond this year, but I feel now is the right time to step aside without any regrets.

“I lived my own and every young Irish footballer’s dream – and represented this country with pride.”

McClean’s absence from the squad was not the only one of note, with Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher also missing after suffering a gash to his knee in training which required 12 stitches, while Sheffield United defender John Egan and Cardiff winger Callum O’Dowda are also unavailable because of injury.

However, Celtic winger Mikey Johnston and Cardiff forward Callum Robinson were included for the games against Greece in Dublin on Friday, October 13 and Gibraltar in Faro three days later.

Ireland’s hopes of qualification are all but over after Group B defeats by France and the Netherlands last month left them with just three points from a possible 15.

Squad: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Mark Travers (Stoke, on loan from Bournemouth), Max O’Leary (Bristol City), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Festy Ebosele (Udinese), Nathan Collins (Brentford), Shane Duffy (Norwich), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Liam Scales (Celtic), Ryan Manning (Southampton), Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Brom), Alan Browne (Preston), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Evan Ferguson (Brighton), Adam Idah (Norwich), Aaron Connolly (Hull), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton), Callum Robinson (Cardiff), Mikey Johnston (Celtic).

The Republic of Ireland host Gibraltar on Monday evening knowing nothing but victory is acceptable after a disappointing start to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Friday night’s 2-1 defeat in Greece left Ireland pointless in Group B after two fixtures and seriously dented their hopes of making it to the finals.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding a must-win game.

Kenny cornered?

Ireland boss Stephen Kenny once again finds himself at a crossroads three years into his reign. The 51-year-old’s 23 competitive matches in charge to date have yielded just four victories – against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Scotland and Armenia – and a campaign towards which he has been building since replacing Mick McCarthy looks to have slipped from his grasp already. He has set great store by introducing youthful talent to his the squad and playing a progressive brand of football, but wins have largely eluded him and the Republic were dismantled by a slick Greece outfit ranked three places below them by FIFA.

The case for the defence

Successive Republic managers have built their teams on solid defensive foundations which made them difficult to beat. But they can no longer rely on the likes of Richard Dunne, John O’Shea and Shane Duffy and with Seamus Coleman injured and Dara O’Shea short of football, Kenny handed John Egan, Nathan Collins and Darragh Lenihan the task of keeping the Greeks out with support from wing-backs Matt Doherty and Callum O’Dowda. However, midfielder schemers Tasos Bakasetas and Giorgos Masouras combined with striker Vangelis Pavlidis provided a tough test. They will hope for a quieter evening against Gibraltar.

The middle ground

Burnley’s Josh Cullen has been hugely impressive in his country’s midfield engine room for much of his international career, while Kenny’s former Under-21s skipper Jayson Molumby has brought energy and bite to the midfield and Will Smallbone shone on his debut against Latvia in March. However, they were overrun at the OPAP Arena with Cullen and Molumby unable to provide the security for Smallbone to link with the frontmen. Kenny is likely to shuffle his pack on Monday evening in the search for greater invention, and that could mean roles for Jason Knight and Mikey Johnston.

Seventh heaven for McClean?

James McClean will become the seventh man after Robbie Keane, Shay Given, John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Steve Staunton and Damien Duff, to win 100 caps for the Republic of Ireland and will wear the captain’s armband as a result. The 34-year-old igan midfielder made his debut as a substitute against the Czech Republic in February 2012 and is a veteran of the Euro 2012 and 2016 finals. He has contributed important goals along the way, in particular World Cup qualifier winners in both Austria and Wales.

Roaring forties

Gibraltar manager Jose Ribas has worked hard to bring a new generation of players through in his five years at the helm – 18-year-old midfielder Nicholas Pozo is a good example – but is still able to call upon vast experience. The team which started Friday night’s 3-0 home defeat by France included 40-year-old defender Roy Chipolina and 41-year-old striker Lee Casciaro.

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