The Guardian

Page bans talk of playoffs as Wales tackle Turkey

Ben Fisher

Rob Page has effectively banned talk of the Euro 2024 playoffs as Wales maintain slim hopes of qualifying automatically.

Wales must beat the Group D leaders Turkey in Cardiff tonight and hope Croatia drop points at home to Armenia, ranked 95th in the world, to avoid the playoffs in March. Wales lost the chance to keep their fate in their own hands heading into the final round of matches after being held to a frustrating draw in Armenia on Saturday.

Page addressed his players in a team meeting on Sunday evening and, together with the outgoing head of performance psychology, Ian Mitchell, who is leaving his post at the Football Association of Wales to take a similar role at Newcastle, made clear to the squad that they must perform tonight in order to take full advantage in the event Croatia slip up in Zagreb.

“We’re having no talk of playoffs,” Page said. “If we’re continuing to talk playoffs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That’s our mentality, that’s our attitude. We’re fully focused on the job we’ve got. We don’t want any regrets when the final whistle goes. We want to take control of it ourselves. The last thing we want is to not give the level of performance that we did against Croatia and then the result goes for us elsewhere, because that would be a devastating blow.”

Asked how his team are approaching the game against Turkey, who beat Germany 3-2 in a friendly last weekend, the Wales manager said: “I addressed it last night [Sunday] and I got Mitch to speak about it as well. We wanted to make sure that full focus is on Tuesday’s game. We’re not admitting defeat and looking forward [to March]. Why would we think of the playoffs when, if we win the game, we can potentially qualify? What I don’t want to do is walk off at the end of the game with one eye on the playoffs and the result has gone for us and we could have taken charge of it.”

Ben Davies, captain in the absence of the injured Aaron Ramsey, insisted it is not “doom and gloom” within the Wales camp, despite Saturday’s result leaving them an uphill task.

“We’re still in with a shot of qualification, it isn’t doom and gloom just yet,” the Tottenham defender said. “We’re not panicking as a group, we’ve still got a chance. To qualify for three out of the past four [major tournaments] and we’re still in with the opportunity of qualifying for a fourth [in five] … as a group it is something we have to be proud of – it is not just something we did as a one-off.”

Page could recall Brennan Johnson and Daniel James, substitutes against Armenia, and will be forced into a defensive change with Chris Mepham suspended. Tom Lockyer is likely to replace Mepham but Ben Cabango is another option.

“We will need energy from minute one,” Page said. “The performance against Croatia [in victory in October] against a top, top team was incredible. Everybody was talking about it, and rightly so, for the right reasons and we are going to need another level of performance like that on Tuesday.”

‘If we’re continuing to talk playoffs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday – that’s our mentality’

Rob Page Wales manager

Possible Wales XI (3-4-3): Ward; Lockyer, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, J James, Ampadu, Williams; Johnson, Moore, D James Possible Turkey XI (4-3-3): Altay; Celik, Bardakci, Kabak, Kadioglu; Akbaba, Ozcan, Yuksek; Akturkoglu, Yilmaz, Yildiz