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Robert Page admits World Cup play-off influenced selection in Wales’ Poland loss

Robert Page rested the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen as Wales lost to Poland (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)
Robert Page rested the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen as Wales lost to Poland (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Wales boss Robert Page admitted his team selection for their opening Nations League game in Poland was influenced by Sunday’s World Cup play-off final.

Skipper Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen were all rested as Wales slid to a 2-1 defeat in Wroclaw – their first loss for nearly a year.

Jonny Williams fired Wales ahead in the 52nd minute with his second international goal, but substitutes Jakub Kaminski and Karol Swiderski turned the tie Poland’s way in the final quarter.

“I didn’t leave anybody out because there were injury concerns,” Page said.

“I left them out purely because we’ve got the game on Sunday.

“There was a group that trained today and I already had the substitutions planned before the game.

“The plan was already in place. I didn’t need to risk Aaron, Gareth, Ben, Joe, there was no benefit in that whatsoever.

“They’ve done a controlled session, what they need, to get them ready for Sunday.

“I made sure they were in the changing room. They’re a massive influence on that group and I wanted them in there.

“Even at half-time I wanted them to be a part of it and they were the first ones through the door at the end.”

This was Wales’ first game in the top tier of the Nations League following their promotion two years ago.

Robert Page's Wales were beaten
Robert Page’s Wales were beaten (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Belgium and Holland complete the group, and Page was pleased that his side had played Poland just four days before the date with World Cup destiny in Cardiff.

Page said: “It’s the way we wanted it. We wanted this fixture first.

“It gave us an opportunity to give DJ (Daniel James) some minutes – he wanted to play – Kieffer (Moore) needed some minutes, and Neco Williams.

“It was a productive exercise. We knew it was going to be a battle, but I couldn’t be more proud of those players.

“That was a strong Polish team, that was their best XI available to them.

“If you’re going to lose a game of football, lose it that way. We took the lead and I thought we deserved a point.

“The second goal was scrappy; it’s taken two deflections, it falls to him four yards out, of course he’s going to score.

“There are little tweaks we can make to stop him getting into that position but I thought we played some good football.

“People like Matty Smith, who is not playing football week-in, week-out, gave a performance like that and I could go through them all. Dylan Levitt, Joe Morrell, Wes Burns, that was his debut, I thought he was outstanding.

“It was great for Joniesta (Jonny Williams) to get his goal as well, there were lots of positives.”

On being so close to Wales’ first World Cup for 64 years, Page said: “We will start the work straight away.

“We’ll be in the meeting room (on Thursday), going through it and formulating a plan to go and make history.”

Poland came from behind to win
Poland came from behind to win (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Poland manager Czeslaw Michniewicz said: “The formation of the opponent was different. They had defenders on both sides of the pitch and played quite quickly.

“The Welsh players kept the ball for a long time so we had to change our shape.

“Three points will not be enough (in this group). The last match will be with Wales again and they will play with their optimal team.”