Rob Page has called on his Wales team to give their supporters the chance to enjoy the Euro 2024 experience.

Wales are still two wins away from qualification but now know that if they can make it to the tournament they face mouthwatering matches against the Netherlands, Austria and France in Group D.

Page and his team will have home backing from the ‘Red Wall’ for their play-off semi against Finland on March 21 and the final against either Poland or Estonia on March 26 should they progress.

He wants his players to be buoyed on by the thought of setting up a Welsh party in Germany after challenging assignments for the fans at the last two major tournaments.

“Off the back of 2016 we’ve had Euro 2020, but because of Covid we were limited with travel,” he told the PA news agency.

“The World Cup (in Qatar last year) was very difficult for our supporters to get to, and respect to the supporters who got out there.

“For them to have a tournament that is close by, well organised, you know what the tournament is going to be like. For our supporters to experience that will be an extra bit of incentive to go and get the results (in March).”

Wales and France have faced each other six times before but never competitively, while Wales have lost all 10 of their previous encounters with the Dutch.

Nevertheless, Page is relishing the matches facing his side if they can make it to Germany.

“When you dream of becoming a footballer as a kid, you want to play against top teams, you want to play against top players, and those teams that are drawn in that group certainly fall into the category,” he said.

“They’re the best teams in Europe and well respected in world football and rightly so.

“For us to get there will be a big achievement and to look forward to playing those teams is incredible for the players again.”

Page also believes playing such big competitive matches less than three months before the finals will stand his team in good stead.

“I think so. It’s important that we strip the emotion out of it, I thought we handled (the World Cup play-offs for Qatar) really well and the big players on the occasion stepped up and delivered,” he added.

“It’s a different team, a different squad, we’re in transition. I’m trying to introduce some of the young players in like Brennan Johnson and Harry Wilson.

“We will be fully focused on March to get the games won, but what a carrot that (draw) is.”

Wales’ first match would be a 2pm UK time kick-off against the Netherlands on Sunday, June 16 should they make it, before facing Austria at 5pm UK time on June 21.

A match against France at 5pm UK time on June 25 would round off the group campaign.

Wales have been drawn to host Finland in the semi-finals of the qualification play-offs for Euro 2024.

The match will take place on Thursday, March 21 at Cardiff City Stadium.

Should Rob Page’s men win that single-leg tie, they would then host either Poland or Estonia five days later at the same venue to play for a spot at next summer’s tournament in Germany.

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

They sit 62nd in the FIFA rankings, 34 places below Wales, and are aiming to qualify for the European Championship finals for only the second time following their debut at Euro 2020.

Wales are seeking to secure a third successive appearance at the finals of the competition and reach a fourth major tournament out of the last five after last year ending their 64-year wait to play at the World Cup.

They finished third in Group D of qualifying, behind pool winners Turkey and second-placed Croatia.

Just three of the 24 places at Euro 2024 remain up for grabs, with Wales attempting to navigate Path A of the play-offs.

In Path B, Israel face a semi-final against Iceland following Thursday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, while Bosnia and Herzegovina will host Ukraine.

Georgia take on fellow potential tournament debutants Luxembourg in Path C, while Kazakhstan travel to 2004 European champions Greece in the other semi-final of that route.

Rob Page says he is “absolutely” the right man to lead Wales in the Euro 2024 play-offs despite his position being under review.

Page has already started planning for the March play-offs and will attend Thursday’s draw in Switzerland when Wales will learn the identity of their semi-final opponents.

Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney cast doubts over Page’s future last month by saying a “serious review” would take place after the final qualifiers “when everything will be settled”.

Asked after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Turkey whether he was confident of being the manager to lead Wales towards the Euros, Page gave an emphatic one-word response: “Absolutely.”

On the next few months, he added: “It’s about planning now. I’m off to the draw and we’ll have a staff meeting next week.

“I’ll get the coaches together, probably the week after. We’ll have a review of the camp, if I can say that.

“The planning starts and then I’ll be out watching players.”

Page signed a four-year contract in September 2022 which runs until the 2026 World Cup.

Wales eventually finished third in their Euro 2024 qualifying group after a roller-coaster campaign that saw them take four points from World Cup semi-finalists Croatia but only one off Armenia, ranked 95 in the world.

Turkey and Croatia claimed the two automatic qualifying places as Wales were once more left to contest the play-offs after successfully navigating them to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Wales, who are unbeaten in six games, will welcome either Finland, Iceland or Ukraine to the Cardiff City Stadium on March 21 next year.

The winners of that tie will meet Poland or Estonia, with a draw held to determine who has home advantage in the final.

Page has constantly made the point during this campaign that Wales are in transition following the retirement of talismanic captain Gareth Bale and the loss of other key players such as Joe Allen.

It is unlikely the FAW hierarchy will change manager only four months before the play-offs, but failing to qualify for Euro 2024 would hit Welsh football hard financially.

Mooney said in October: “We’ll have a serious review after the Armenia and Turkey games when everything will be settled.

“We’ll know if we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to do, which is to qualify automatically.

“In a high-team performance environment with teams that have gone to World Cups and Euros over the last few years, we have to keep going forwards.

“The FAW is not like one of these football clubs which keep changing the manager all the time, knee-jerk stuff. That’s not us.

“But I caveat that by saying we have to keep winning football matches, we can’t keep losing matches. That’s very important. We’ve reached the top table in world football, we can’t go backwards.”

Page took over in an interim capacity from Ryan Giggs exactly three years ago and led Wales at the delayed 2020 European Championship, guiding them in to the round of 16.

He won promotion to the top tier of the Nations League and was appointed on a permanent basis in June 2022 after Wales had qualified for their first World Cup for 64 years.

Qualification for Euro 2024 ended this week, but there are still three places available for next summer’s tournament.

Twelve teams, including Wales, will enter the play-offs with a chance of earning a late ticket to Germany.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at how the play-off system will work.

Who are in the play-offs?

Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Ukraine, Iceland, Poland, Wales and Estonia.

How do they work?

Gone are the days when countries need to prevail in one two-legged tie to book their place at a tournament, with a more convoluted process now in place.

The 12 teams have earned another shot at Euro 2024 based on their performance in the Nations League and they have been split into three pathways, though that is still to be fully decided.

Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg are definitely in Path C, with Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina and two of Finland, Ukraine or Iceland in Path B.

Path A consists of Poland, Wales, Estonia and one of Finland, Ukraine or Iceland.

There are two one-legged semi-finals in each pathway, with home advantage determined by Nations League standings. The winners advance to a one-off final, where home advantage will be decided by draw.

What are the fixtures and when will they be played?

The matches will all take place in the next international window. The six semi-finals will be played on March 21, 2024, with the three finals five days later.

In Path C, Georgia will host Luxembourg and Greece take on Kazakhstan.

Path B is more complicated with Israel playing either Ukraine or Iceland, with Bosnia and Herzegovina facing Finland or Ukraine, depending on which pathway Ukraine, Finland and Iceland are drawn in.

Path A has Poland at home to Estonia and Wales hosting either Finland, Ukraine or Iceland.

Which nations have already qualified for the finals?

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

Ryan Jack will have Euro 2024 thoughts at the back of his mind until next summer after Scotland’s qualifiers concluded with a 3-3 draw against Norway.

Steve Clarke’s had already qualified for the tournament in Germany before the final two Group A games in Georgia and against the Norwegians at Hampden Park.

A 2-2 draw in Tbilisi on Thursday was followed by a thrilling match against Norway on Sunday, when the 31-year-old Rangers midfielder came on as a late substitute.

The draw will take place on December 2, after which the race will be on to make Clarke’s 23-man squad.

Jack said: “We all go back to our clubs. There is obviously a lot of football to be played, everyone will have a lot of big games to play from now to then.

“It is always at the back of your mind. You are never going to just forget what we have achieved.

“It is going to give everyone motivation to play well, to play consistently for their club and do everything we can to be part of it.

“It has been a great campaign. We qualified with a couple of games to spare and that has not been done for a long time.

“We wanted to go out with wins but at the start of the campaign the most important thing was qualifying and we did that.”

It was quite a final Group A game at Hampden where Aron Donnum fired the visitors ahead in the third minute before Scotland captain John McGinn levelled with a penalty 10 minutes later.

Striker Jorgen Larsen regained Norway’s lead before an own goal by Leo Ostigard had the Scots level again before half-time.

A fine strike by Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong had the home side ahead for the first time but that was cancelled out by a late header from Norway substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi.

Scotland have lost only twice in total in their last two qualifying campaigns – to Spain last month and to Denmark in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which ended with Clarke’s side eventually missing out.

The Scots did make the previous Euros, albeit they could not emerge from their group which included England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

But Jack believes that experience will be beneficial.

He said: “That (consistency) comes with belief and the confidence of getting results. The same core of the squad has been here since the last qualification.

“We are in a good place at the minute but we need to keep that going.

“We will be going to the tournament a lot more experienced and very optimistic.

“That (Euro 2020) will help. It probably didn’t go as well as we hoped so there will be a lot of reflection on that and what we think went wrong in that tournament and hopefully we can rectify that for this one.

“Hopefully the experience we have all had, the backroom staff, the players, will stand us in good stead for the next tournament.”

Wales welcome Turkey to Cardiff for their final Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday.
Rob Page’s side must win and hope Croatia do not beat Armenia in order to secure automatic European Championship qualification and avoid the play-offs in March.

Here, the PA news agency studies some of the main talking points surrounding the game.

Favour needed

Wales’ disappointing 1-1 draw in Armenia on Saturday took automatic qualification out of their hands heading in to the final round of matches.

Croatia seized advantage by winning 2-0 in Latvia to move in to the box-seat and claim the second spot behind Turkey.

The mathematics for Wales are simple: nothing other than beating Turkey will do, while praying Croatia do not finish with victory.

Armenia have been Wales’ bogeymen in this group by taking four points from them, but they now need a huge favour from the team ranked 95 in the world.

Play-off lifeline

Amid the gloom of a flat performance against Armenia in Yerevan and Croatia’s subsequent success a few hours later, it was overlooked that Wales actually secured a play-off spot on Saturday due to other results across Europe.

Wales would have suffered the agony of missing out on the play-offs had three from Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the Czech Republic missed out on automatic qualification.

While Italy and the Czechs await their fate on Monday, Netherlands’ 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Kosovo secured their places at Euro 2024 and gave Wales a play-off safety net.

Wales now hope Italy and the Czech Republic confirm their places in Germany next summer and provide them with a home play-off semi-final in March.

 Will the real Wales stand up?

Two months, two games, two very contrasting displays.

October saw Wales produce one of their best performances of recent times as Croatia, World Cup semi-finalists less than 12 months ago, were downed in 2-1 in Cardiff.

Confidence was running high going into November’s camp but, having been stunned by an early Armenia goal, Wales were disjointed and fortunate not to lose again to a team ranked 67 places below them in FIFA’s world order.

Boss Rob Page’s task now is to rediscover the fizz and fluency that swept aside Croatia and shelve the anxiety and hesitancy that bedevilled them in Armenia.

Defensive Locks?

Wales must make at least one change with defender Chris Mepham suspended after collecting a third booking of the campaign in Armenia.

Tom Lockyer has had an eventful time over the last six months – winning promotion with Luton and requiring heart surgery after collapsing on the Wembley turf in the Championship play-off final.

But Lockyer, known as ‘Locks’, might get the nod over Ben Cabango to join Joe Rodon and skipper Ben Davies in Wales’ three-man central defence against Turkey.

Tottenham’s Brennan Johnson could also be restored to the attack, despite an underwhelming second-half performance off the bench in Armenia.

Talented Turkey

Turkey are on the rise again after missing out on the 2022 World Cup and underperforming at the last two European Championships when exiting at the group stage.

Having sacked Stefan Kuntz and appointed Vincenzo Montella as head coach halfway through Euro 2024 qualification, Turkey have won five of their seven games and sewed up a top-two spot last month.

Turkey avenged a solitary defeat to Croatia by winning 1-0 in Osijek, and their soaring confidence was underlined by a 3-2 friendly victory over Germany in Berlin on Saturday.

Real Madrid’s Arda Guler, who scored in sensational style against Wales in June, and Kenan Yildiz, of Juventus, are both 18-year-old attacking midfielders and rated two of the brightest prospects in European football.

Steve Clarke savoured the chance to celebrate Scotland’s Euro 2024 qualification with the Hampden crowd after his side rounded off their campaign with a “strange” 3-3 draw against Norway.

Scotland had qualified with two games to spare and finished second behind Spain in Group A after a second consecutive draw ensured they have only lost once in the section.

The players, including injured captain Andy Robertson, did a lap of honour afterwards to mark their achievement.

Clarke said: “It was nice – and nice for the supporters – to say thank you to the team, a nice night for the team and staff to thank the supporters.

“It’s always nice to qualify for a major tournament. Obviously the last one was Covid-restricted so we missed that connection and that feel with the fans.

“It’s great for everyone in the country that we have something to look forward to next summer.”

Clarke’s side twice came from behind in the first half through John McGinn’s penalty and an own goal before Stuart Armstrong netted a well-worked goal to out them in front just before the hour mark.

However, former Celtic winger Mohamed Elyounoussi came off the bench to head home in the 86th minute as Norway scored their third goal from a cross originating from right-back Julian Ryerson.

“It was a strange game,” Clarke said. “I need to go away and analyse it.

“What we have worked really hard at is being competitive, being a competitive team every time we go on to the pitch.

“That’s why I was a little bit disappointed with the first half, I didn’t think we were competitive enough. Much more competitive second half.

“We are Scotland, we have a certain way of playing, we like to play on the front foot.”

A two-goal win would have put Scotland in pot two for the December 2 draw, although they are arguably better off in pot three given they will now avoid the likes of the Netherlands, Italy and Croatia.

“I’m not bothered,” Clarke said. “I don’t know even know who else is in pot three and pot two. I’m sure I will find out when I get to Hamburg.”

Norway head coach Stale Solbakken felt his side should have been ahead at half-time but feels Scotland will pose problems in Germany.

“Overall we were the better team and should have won but it’s not easy, Scotland are always very well organised,” he added.

“They have a great coach and have very disciplined players who know their strengths and limitations. That’s very important – they play to their strengths and don’t pretend to be something else.

“They also have tournament experience so I think they can be a handful for everyone next summer. They also play two systems which is valuable.

“There will be no easy games for those teams who meet Scotland.”

Gareth Southgate says there can be no let-up for already-qualified England if they are to win next summer’s Euros and become the top-ranked team in the world.

The Euro 2020 runners-up last month sealed their place at the 2024 edition in Germany with two matches to spare and were below par in Friday’s qualifier against Malta.

England disappointed in the 2-0 victory at a packed Wembley and will look to end 2023 on a high as they round off Euro 2024 qualification in North Macedonia.

Southgate’s side arrived in Skopje all but assured of being among the top seeds in December’s draw in Hamburg, but every moment counts as they seek to be best on the planet.

“Qualification’s done,” the England boss said ahead of the Group C finale.

“With the games at the weekend, we might be ranked third in the world at the minute, but we’re two places off where we need to be so we can’t waste games.

“Some of the players have got three games to get into a squad, some have got maybe three to get into a team, maybe a couple more if we’re talking about the team.

“There’s some things we’d like to see. But if we’re going to be a top team, then the level of performance has got to be spot on every time.”

Asked if being number one drives him on, Southgate said: “Yeah, because ultimately you achieve that through consistency and you’ve got to play well in the tournaments as well because the ranking points are higher in the tournaments.

“Also, it sets behaviours every day on the training pitch, off the training pitch.

“If you are going to be the top-ranked team, there’s no room for sloppiness or casualness. That’s got to be our drive.”

England currently sit fourth in FIFA’s world rankings, making it five straight years of being in the top five.

Their previous best since its launch was six months in the top five across 1997 and 1998, yet there remains plenty of criticism for Southgate and speculation about his future.

Monday will be England’s final qualifier before the manager’s contract expires next year and he smiled when it was mentioned that former Football Association executive David Dein had said he should get a new deal.

Asked if he anticipated this being his final qualifier in the hotseat, Southgate said: “I haven’t thought about it, really.

“I’ve thought about the game tomorrow and the need for a better performance than Friday so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.

“I feel almost as if we’ve almost talked too much about the Euros already and I didn’t see our focus in the right place at the weekend.

“So, it’s tomorrow, then it’s March, then it’s the summer. And we go from there.”

Southgate downplayed suggestions of his future being a distraction but suggested his comments about their Euros ambitions may have been.

“Well, I think talk of the summer was a distraction on Friday in its own way,” he added.

“Look, in football management, frankly I think you should look no further than three or four games ahead anyway.

“But I think when you’ve got a tournament coming up, inevitably, as an international manager, you’re going to be judged on tournaments so everybody before that is pretty futile, really.”

England’s final camp of the year has been disrupted by absentees.

Five players withdrew from the original squad through injury and two more departed the squad before they flew out to the Balkans.

The FA announced Kieran Trippier had gone home due to a personal issue, while injury meant Jarrod Bowen left the camp on Sunday.

A soldout Tose Proeski Arena awaits England’s absentee-hit 21-man squad as the Macedonians look to make up for June’s 7-0 hiding at Old Trafford.

“We play a team who, although they can’t qualify, have tremendous pride and they’ll be wounded by what happened in Manchester,” Southgate added.

“We have to be ready for a really good atmosphere. Full crowd, full stadium.

“We’ve had a calendar year where we’ve been very good, so we want to finish well.”

Rico Lewis is hoping his versatility will work in his favour as he aims to make a late charge to Euro 2024.

Gareth Southgate will name a 23-man squad for next summer’s finals in Germany, having been able to pick 26 players for both Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

That means competition for places will be more fierce than in recent years, with Southgate admitting those who are more adaptable could have the edge.

 

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The likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Phil Foden can occupy several different positions on the pitch.

So too, can Lewis – the 18-year-old having already played in both full-back roles and in midfield for treble-winners Manchester City.

He has yet to make his senior England debut but was called up for the first time last week and will be targeting minutes in the final Euro 2024 qualifier away to North Macedonia on Monday.

“Obviously, in terms of a tournament, you can only select the amount you can select,” he said.

“It (versatility) can be a key factor in going or not going. But for me, I am not really focusing on that right now but I understand it is a key thing that could contribute to me being picked or not.

“Obviously he (Southgate) has asked me about where I want to play, my favourite position, stuff like that.”

With Southgate’s defensive options already limited in the current camp, Lewis’ chances of playing in Skopje have been further boosted with Trippier not travelling due to personal reasons.

Asked if he would be happy to fill in at left-back, where Southgate is particularly bereft of options, Lewis replied: “Of course. Anywhere I played, I would relish it. Whether it is right-back, midfield, left-back – I am not really bothered.

“I just love playing football and at the moment it is going really well. Any opportunity I get, I will do my best to take it.

“Obviously, it is not something I expected, especially coming into the international week when I was in the under-21s. Obviously a lot of things happened and fortunately for me I am here now.

“I have enjoyed every minute of it so far: meeting everybody, meeting the players, the staff, the training sessions, everything.”

Southgate himself hailed Lewis as someone who could fill the void given the number of left-backs who have been forced onto the sidelines.

“He is an option. He’s a versatile player,” said the manager.

“I’m really pleased with how he’s trained, he’s settled really well. He’s very comfortable with the ball. He’s played there a few times. He’s played everywhere for City.”

Lewis admits Alexander-Arnold is someone he will look to learn from, with the Liverpool man playing a very similar hybrid role.

“In a sense we are very similar – being full-backs and leaning a little bit more towards midfield, especially with England. and he is somebody I can take a lot of information from,” he added.

“I have had a few conversations with him and he is a very nice person. He is somebody I have got to know a little bit.”

Romelu Lukaku scored four times in 20 first-half minutes as Belgium thrashed 10-man Azerbaijan 5-0 in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Lukaku headed the opener from Jeremy Doku’s cross before Eddy Pascual was shown a second yellow card for a foul on the Roma striker, who is on loan from Chelsea.

The 30-year-old completed his hat-trick by the half-hour mark and grabbed his fourth after 37 minutes before being substituted at half-time. Arsenal forward Leandro Trossard completed the rout late on.

Lukaku’s total of 14 goals is a record for a European Championship qualifying campaign, beating the mark of 13 set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy in 2008 and equalled by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in 2016.

Belgium had already booked their place at next year’s tournament and the win saw them finish top of Group F ahead of Austria.

Sweden, who could not qualify, beat Estonia 2-0 in the group’s other fixture.

Serbia qualified for Euro 2024 with a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria in Group G, where group winners Hungary beat Montenegro 3-1 thanks to a brace from Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.

Serbia only needed a point or for Montenegro not to beat Hungary to secure their berth in Germany, but that looked a distinct possibility when they trailed 2-1 and Montenegro led 1-0 in Budapest.

However, Serbia’s Srdan Babic equalised in the 82nd minute and Szoboszlai scored twice in the space of two minutes in the second half to turn Hungary’s game around.

Scotland concluded their successful campaign with an action-packed 3-3 draw with Norway at Hampden Park.

Steve Clarke’s men twice came from behind before Stuart Armstrong gave the home side the lead just before the hour mark, but Norway substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi levelled in the 86th minute.

Group A winners Spain beat Georgia 3-1 in Valladolid.

Portugal ended their qualifying campaign with a 10th straight win as goals from Bruno Fernandes and Ricardo Horta gave them a 2-0 victory over Iceland.

Group J runners-up Slovakia enjoyed a 2-1 win over 10-man Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will join Luxembourg in the play-offs.

Spain concluded their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win against Georgia.

They had already qualified for next year’s tournament in Germany prior to the game, but a frenetic opening 10 minutes saw their early lead through Robin Le Normand cancelled out by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The hosts were then forced into an early substitution when Gavi was forced off the field with an injury, but were able to wrap up victory when Ferran Torres headed them in front 10 minutes into the second half before Luka Lochoshvili scored an own goal.

The result means Spain finish top of Group A with seven wins under their belts, while Georgia finish fourth.

The hosts took the lead just four minutes in when Torres curled a free-kick into the box, going as far as Le Normand who nodded the ball home at the back post.

They had another great chance when Dani Carvajal broke down the right to find Gavi in the middle and the Barcelona midfielder forced a great save from Giorgi Mamardashvili, who palmed the ball away from the top corner.

Georgia brought themselves back into the game in the 10th minute when Giorgi Chakvetadze broke through and threaded a fantastic ball to Kvaratskhelia, who held off two defenders to roll the ball past Unai Simon’s outstretched leg and into the net.

Spain continued to lurk around the Georgian box and came close in the 22nd minute as Mamardashvili was forced to make a superb save at his left post from Fabian Ruiz’s in-swinging free-kick.

However, they were handed a major blow moments later though as Gavi limped off the pitch with injury and were quickly forced to clear the danger from a Georgian corner.

Another brilliant Spanish chance came in the 32nd minute when Torres’ curling low ball from the right found Alvaro Morata in the six-yard box and the Atletico Madrid forward fired first-time, but Mamardashvili denied him with a fine block.

Spain were on the attack early in the second half when Rodri fired straight at goal and they threatened again as Torres picked out the Manchester City midfielder, but Mamardashvili was able to claw the powerful header away.

They eventually earned their reward in the 55th minute when Jose Luis Gaya chipped the ball to Torres in the middle of the box, with his header bouncing past Mamardashvili into the right corner and he celebrated holding up Gavi’s shirt.

Some great play down the left saw Gaya threaten with another dangerous cross, but Morata’s resulting header was skewed wide and moments later Spain’s lead was extended when Lochoshvili headed Lamine Yamal’s cross into his own net in the 72nd minute.

Georgia were on the attack and Kvaratskhelia had a shot blocked by the Spanish defence and the hosts had another chance when Oihan Sancet volleyed over the crossbar.

The visitors had a late chance to earn a consolation at the death, but Giorgi Kochorashvili’s free-kick flew wide.

Gareth Southgate says “performance is the priority” in North Macedonia as already-qualified England look to make up for winning with a whimper against minnows Malta.

The Euro 2020 runners-up sealed their place at next summer’s edition with two matches to spare and were below par in Friday’s qualifier.

England disappointed a packed Wembley crowd by limping to a 2-0 victory over Malta, leading the manager to suggest his players had subconsciously taken their foot off the gas.

Southgate did not castigate those that have done so well for him over the years, but he is demanding a vastly-improved display in North Macedonia as they bring the curtain down on 2023.

“Performance is the priority,” Southgate said.

“We’ve set a standard. We didn’t reach that standard on Friday. We have to get back to what we’re good at. There’s always a chance within that to have a look at a couple of things that we’d like to see as well.

“But the biggest thing is making sure we hit the level of performance that we’ve set ourselves.”

England’s final match of the year is also set to be their last on foreign soil until the Euros get under way in Germany.

A sold-out Tose Proeski Arena awaits despite the Macedonians’ qualification hopes already having gone up in smoke, with revenge the main focus on Monday.

Few saw June’s 7-0 Old Trafford annihilation at Old Trafford coming and Blagoja Milevski’s men are looking to get a famous result having drawn at home to reigning European champions Italy since then.

“We weren’t at the level of performance that we want on Friday, so all focus on tomorrow’s game,” said Southgate, whose side have so far gone unbeaten this year.

“We play a team who, although they can’t qualify, have tremendous pride and they’ll be wounded by what happened in Manchester.

“We have to be ready for a really good atmosphere. Full crowd, full stadium. We’ve had a calendar year where we’ve been very good, so we want to finish well.”

England’s final camp of the year has been disrupted by absentees.

Five players withdrew from the original squad through injury and two more departed the squad before they flew out to the Balkans.

The Football Association announced Kieran Trippier had gone home due to a personal issue, while injury meant Jarrod Bowen left the camp on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, Jarrod picked up an injury,” Southgate said. “I think he felt it a little bit yesterday and then again at the end of training today.

“We didn’t really have enough time to assess it fully and make a really accurate decision before the game, so we felt better to leave him in England so that he can get it properly assessed.

“I don’t think it’s got to be anything serious, but we just didn’t have enough time and we wouldn’t take a risk in that situation.”

Bowen was in line for a substantial role for rotated England on Monday, so too Trippier.

The versatile Newcastle full-back’s withdrawal underlines the dearth of options at left-back in the absence of injured Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell.

“We need to adapt,” Southgate said. “We’ve got a couple of different options and we’re comfortable with it. We can find a good solution to the issue.

“We haven’t got somebody that is playing there regularly, but we’ve adapted to lots of situations over the last few years and we’re comfortable with doing that again tomorrow.”

Asked about the options and formation switch, he added: “We probably have done it a little bit on personnel going back a few years.

“So, yeah, that is an option. We’ve obviously got players that have played as wing-backs. We can adjust. We’ve got Fik (Fikayo Tomori), of course, who did it the other day, Rico Lewis, Marc Guehi can play across there.

“He’s done that for us in a game before so it’s just making sure that everybody’s aware of their job. It changes the way maybe you build up patterns and those sorts of things, but we’re comfortable with the situation we’ve got.”

Declan Rice has called on England to end an unbeaten 2023 with a “bang” by winning their final Euro 2024 qualifier away to North Macedonia.

England have not suffered defeat since their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France last December and sealed their spot at next summer’s finals with two games to spare.

Rice’s Arsenal team-mate Bukayo Saka hit a hat-trick in a 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in June.

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After a drab 2-0 win over Malta on Friday, Rice is keen for England to put in a better showing to bring the curtain down on a strong calendar year.

“I think especially the other night after Malta there is just a bit of pride in ourselves that we need to raise our level,” the Arsenal midfielder said.

“We need to put out a statement and it would be a good way to end the year. We are currently unbeaten since the World Cup so it is down to us to go out tomorrow night, put on a performance.

“You need to be mentally prepared, have the right mentality and be ready for a hostile environment and make sure we go out of this year with a bang. We will be ready for whatever they throw at us.”

Rice will collect his 48th cap in Monday’s game and the former West Ham captain admits he was “gutted” that a controversial VAR call cost him a fourth England goal in the Malta win.

Just moments after Harry Kane had doubled the lead, Rice charged forward and drove home a fine finish that was ultimately ruled out for offside against Kane.

“To be honest with you, going back to the other night I was gutted,” he said.

“When I picked the ball up and drove through and bent one into the far corner, I was buzzing because I don’t really score goals like that often.

“When it was chalked off I was gutted, but it was one of those where I didn’t want to get into something with the ref, get a silly yellow card. The game was won at 2-0 so it is one of those you have to take on the chin.

“Hopefully I can score one of those again, maybe tomorrow night, so we will have to wait and see.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has landed a Football Association charge for his stinging criticism of VAR following the recent Premier League defeat at Newcastle – labelling the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s winning goal to stand as both “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.

“It is one of those things, you are going to get decisions that go your way and those that don’t go your way,” Rice said on VAR.

“At the minute it is a bit up in the air because some decisions being made are the wrong decisions, some are right, but we are just there to play football and it is down to the authorities to decide – the people at Stockley Park and the referees.”

West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen has joined Kieran Trippier in withdrawing from the England squad ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifier in North Macedonia.

Bowen suffered a knee injury in training and remained in England when the rest of the squad flew to Macedonia on Sunday.

England boss Gareth Southgate told a press conference: “Unfortunately Jarrod picked up an injury, I think he felt it a little bit yesterday and again at the end of training today.

“We didn’t really have enough time to assess it fully and make a really accurate decision before the game so we felt better to leave him in England so that he can get it properly assessed.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious but we just didn’t have enough time and we wouldn’t take a risk in that situation.”

Bowen’s departure follows that of defender Trippier, who left the England camp earlier on Sunday due to a personal matter.

England end their Euro 2024 qualification campaign and 2023 fixture calendar in Skopje on Monday night, when they will be unable to call upon Newcastle full-back Trippier.

The England account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said: “@trippier2 has departed the #ThreeLions camp, owing to a personal matter and will not travel to North Macedonia.”

Southgate’s side secured progress to next summer’s finals with two games to spare and Friday’s forgettable 2-0 win against Malta all but assured their spot among the top seeds in the December 2 draw.

Northern Ireland wrap up their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign when Denmark visit Windsor Park on Monday night.

Here the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of the game.

It’s (almost) over

The good news is that this is the last of Northern Ireland’s Group H fixtures. A campaign which began with such optimism unravelled quickly in the first few games and has never recovered, with seven defeats in nine causing Northern Ireland’s world ranking to drop from 59th to 75th.

Michael O’Neill was clear ahead of the game that it was not as simple as drawing a line and moving on because lessons must be learned, but it will still be welcome to change the narrative of a campaign in which any realistic hope of reaching next year’s finals was gone in by the summer.

Can they end on a high note?

O’Neill said in Finland last week that he and his players would need to look at themselves if they could not take something from at least one of their fixtures against someone other than San Marino, but a 4-0 hiding in Helsinki leaves this match as the final opportunity.

Playing a side ranked 19th in the world and the top seeds in the group is hardly ideal in those circumstances, but Northern Ireland were a tight offside decision away from scoring a late equaliser when they lost 1-0 in Copenhagen in June, so they will take some confidence from that.

Reinforcements

Shea Charles returns from suspension and Paul Smyth is back in the squad following the hamstring injury which prevented him from travelling to Finland.

O’Neill indicated the absence of both players in Helsinki had limited his options not only in terms of personnel but also the shape of his team so their return will be welcome.

O’Neill admitted he needed to consider whether or not he had fielded too many young players at the same time, leaning too heavily on inexperienced players, so any reinforcements will be welcome. However, in keeping with the campaign as a whole there is a fresh injury worry with Daniel Ballard a doubt due to a hamstring problem.

Denmark are through

Denmark’s 2-1 win over Slovenia on Friday night booked their ticket to Euro 2024, meaning neither side has anything too much riding on Monday’s game.

That should in theory benefit Northern Ireland with Denmark no longer desperate for points, but things are not always so simple.

If coach Kasper Hjulmand does choose to make changes, those players who come in will have a point to prove as attention turns to the squad selection for the finals.

Davis back in Belfast

There was a welcome sight at training on Sunday morning as absent captain Steven Davis watched the session from the sidelines.

After his recent spell as interim manager of Rangers, Davis has stepped back from his coaching role to concentrate on his rehabilitation from the knee injury which has sidelined him since December, and O’Neill remains hopeful the 38-year-old can finish his career on the pitch.

In the meantime, his experience in and around the group is invaluable.

“It’s great to see Davo back among the squad,” Paddy McNair said. “It’s great to have him around. When he’s at the hotel he can speak to the younger lads, they can ask him questions and he can pass on his experience.”

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