This is the Wales squad that will be heading to the World Cup in Qatar
Robert Page admits he was never going to leave out Joe Allen of Wales’ World Cup squad, even though doubts persist over whether the Swansea midfielder will be fit to play in the tournament.
Allen, who played at both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, remains a key player for Wales at the age of 32 but has not played since damaging his hamstring on September 17.
He was among a 26-man squad announced for this month’s tournament in Qatar on Wednesday as Page returned to his Rhondda roots to name Wales’ first World Cup group for 64 years.
“We’re giving him every opportunity to be fit,” Wales boss Page said as he unveiled his squad at Tylorstown Welfare Hall, where he played snooker as a teenager before embarking on a football career that saw him play for Sheffield United and Watford and win 41 caps for his country.
“There was no way I was ever going to not name him in the 26. He’s on the grass,” Page said.
“He’s progressing as we want him to and we’ll give him every opportunity to be fit for the first game.
“I phoned him a couple of days ago to tell him he was in the 26 just to take that pressure off him.
“If he’s fit, he’s playing. He’s massive for how I play and the success we’ve had.
“He’s got vast amounts of experience playing tournament football as well, so he knows the game inside out and that’s invaluable. That’s why I’m throwing everything at it.”
Gareth Bale captains the squad after coming off the bench to score a crucial late goal in Los Angeles FC’s MLS Cup final triumph over Philadelphia Union – his first action since September.
Bale, who has returned to Wales after playing in California on Saturday, said after LAFC’s triumph that he is “not 100 per cent at the moment” after having a “few little issues”.
But Page said: “Has he played as many minutes as we’d like? Probably not. But that doesn’t worry me.
“He’s proved time and time again when he puts the Welsh jersey on, irrespective of how many minutes he’s played at domestic level, he’s always produced.
“On big occasions he’ll always turn up, thrive, and enjoy it. No question about that. He’ll have an effect on the game straight away and when opposing managers see his name on the team sheet they’ll know.
“It’s the power that people like Gareth have because they always deliver.”
Wales start their World Cup campaign against the United States on November 21 before playing Iran four days later.
They complete their group fixtures against England on November 29 – a third game in nine days.
Asked if Bale could start all three games, Page said: “That’s the million dollar question. We don’t know, we’ll assess each game as it comes.
“We’re just fully focused on the first game. Hopefully get off to a positive, which is not losing the game.
“We’ll have a plan moving forward for the second one. If he’s part of that great, if he’s not we’ll manage the minutes.”
There are no surprises in the squad, with Page backing up earlier comments that he would be loyal to the players that secured Wales’ qualification.
Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams, two survivors of Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, are selected despite now playing in League Two respectively at AFC Wimbledon and Swindon.
Tom Lockyer is the beneficiary of Rhys Norrington-Davies’ absence because of a serious hamstring injury.
The Luton defender returns to the squad after a 14-month absence, his last cap coming in a friendly with Finland in September 2021.
Leeds forward Tyler Roberts was ruled out after picking up a calf injury while on loan at QPR.
Wayne Hennessey (Club: Nottingham Forest, Age: 35, Caps: 106, Goals: 0)
Won back the number one jersey after losing it to Danny Ward at Euro 2020. Swapped the Burnley bench for understudying Dean Henderson at Nottingham Forest this season and pre-World Cup game-time is an issue. But performance levels for Wales have not dipped when he has been number two at his club.
Key stat: Made nine saves in the play-off final victory against Ukraine – the most shots on target by a team without scoring in the 2022 European World Cup qualifying campaign.
Danny Ward (Leicester, 29, 26, 0)
Endured difficult domestic campaign in succeeding Leicester great Kasper Schmeichel and has been guilty of making of some high-profile mistakes. Not the most comfortable with the ball at his feet, but produced some big performances for Wales in the past. Now seen as the back-up to Hennessey.
Key stat: Total of 14 group-stage saves at Euro 2020 was bettered only by Turkey’s Ugurcan Cakir.
Adam Davies (Sheffield Utd, 30, 4, 0)
Very much Wales’ third-choice goalkeeper who has had to contend with injury setbacks. Yet to play for Sheffield United since joining them from Stoke in January, and was sidelined at the start of the season with a knee injury. Got the nod over Salford’s Tom King to make the Qatar trip.
Key stat: Had made more appearances for Wales (2) than at club level (1) until the middle of last month.
Chris Gunter (AFC Wimbledon, 33, 109, 0)
Wales’ most capped men’s player remains an important squad member, despite his back-up status and dropping down to League Two. Provides huge experience as a Euro 2016 veteran and a calm voice in the dressing room. Offers versatility at wing-back or on the right side of a three-man defence.
Key stat: Became first Welshman to win 100 caps when leading the side in a 1-0 friendly victory over Mexico in March 2021.
Connor Roberts (Burnley, 27, 41, 3)
Will start as right wing-back in Robert Page’s preferred 3-4-3 formation and offers huge energy and enthusiasm down that flank. A Championship regular for Vincent Kompany’s Clarets, Roberts is tenacious and also has a goal in him. Scored in Wales’ 2-0 victory over Turkey at Euro 2020.
Key stat: Three goals for Wales makes Roberts the sixth highest scorer in the squad.
Ethan Ampadu (Spezia, on loan from Chelsea, 22, 37, 0)
Headed to Italy for second loan spell after Page expressed concerns over lack of game time at Chelsea. Ability to play in defence or midfield is a huge plus, although Page prefers to put him on the right of a three-man defence. Tigerish in tackle and must keep discipline.
Key stat: Just seven starts in over five years at Chelsea and four loan spells away from Stamford Bridge.
Chris Mepham (Bournemouth, 25, 33, 0)
Twelve months ago his fortunes for club and country appeared on the slide. But has since gone from Championship bit-part player to Premier League regular at Bournemouth and played some of his best games for Wales. Added consistency could make him a World Cup starter.
Key stat: Started every Premier League game for Bournemouth this season.
Joe Rodon (Rennes, on loan from Tottenham, 25, 30, 0)
Raised eyebrows with a summer switch to Ligue 1 but has settled well in France and got valuable pre-World Cup minutes. Key component of Wales defence, both for man-marking skills and his ability in possession. Capable of setting up attacks by driving out of defence with the ball.
Key stat: Scored his first career goal for Rennes against Brest on August 31.
Ben Davies (Tottenham, 29, 74, 1)
Provides balance, composure and experience to three-man central defence, lining up on the left where Antonio Conte has deployed him more often than not at Tottenham. Reads game so well that he is rarely caught out and was among the stand-out performers in play-off final victory.
Key stat: Started last 27 matches of 2021-22 campaign as Spurs secured return to the Champions League.
Ben Cabango (Swansea, 22, 5, 0)
Made Wales’ squad for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament but did not play. Nearly 18 months on and Cabango is still down the pecking order of central defenders, but has shown growing maturity at Swansea. Has improved in possession and is strong in the air.
Key stat: Won four aerial duels against Poland in Wales’ final pre-World Cup game.
Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest, 21, 23, 2)
Spent club career at right full-back or wing-back, but operates on the left for Wales. As with Roberts on the right, work rate and willingness to get forward is an important part of Wales’ attacking armoury. Benefited from extra minutes at club level following move from Liverpool to Forest.
Key stat: Scored on his competitive international debut against Bulgaria in September 2020.
Tom Lockyer (Luton, 26, 14, 0)
The centre-back is the beneficiary of Rhys Norrington-Davies’ hamstring injury and returns to the squad after a 14-month absence. Strong competitor and has good leadership skills having captained Bristol Rovers and Luton.
Key stat: Once played for club and country within 24 hours. Started for Wales away to Albania in November 2018 before coming on as a 77th-minute substitute for Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup the following night.
Joe Allen (Swansea, 32, 72, 2)
Massive midfield presence – many would say irreplaceable – with an innate ability to shield the defence and break up play. Not played since September 17 because of hamstring damage and Wales are sweating on his fitness ahead of the tournament opener against the United States.
Key stat: Named in Euro 2016’s official team of the tournament.
Joe Morrell (Portsmouth, 25, 30, 0)
Stepped up from League One to play alongside Allen in central midfield and was a regular at Euro 2020. Possesses good short passing game and is a combative player. Never let Wales down, but might have to settle for bench role should Page decide to go on the offensive.
Key stat: Scored at under-17 and under-21 level for Wales.
Matthew Smith (MK Dons, 22, 19, 0)
Versatility guaranteed him a place in Wales’ World Cup squad. Capable of operating across midfield, although the Manchester City product is more comfortable in central role. Has played wing-back for Wales and offers an option there should injuries strike.
Key stat: Had five loan spells away from City before joining MK Dons.
Dylan Levitt (Dundee United, 21, 13, 0)
Left Manchester United for Dundee United in July to nail down a World Cup spot. A good passer of the ball, Levitt helped Dundee United qualify for European football during a successful loan spell on Tayside last season. Yet to really flourish for Wales when given an opportunity.
Key stat: Voted Dundee United’s fans’ player of the year while on loan at Tannadice Park.
Sorba Thomas (Huddersfield, 23, 6, 0)
Was playing in the National League at Boreham Wood two years ago. Made his way to Huddersfield where his set-pieces helped them into the Championship play-offs. Can operate as a wing-back or further up the pitch.
Key stat: Created nearly 100 scoring chances in the Championship last season.
Rubin Colwill (Cardiff, 20, 7, 1)
Shock Euro 2020 selection at the age of 19. Injuries have hampered the attacking midfielder’s progress, although he has shone in cameo roles for Wales and scored his first international goal in March. Tall and elegant, Colwill has not played since September 25 because of injury.
Key stat: Named in Wales’ Euro 2020 squad after just 191 minutes of senior football.
Jonny Williams (Swindon, 29, 32, 2)
Among the band of Euro 2016 survivors despite dropping down to League Two. Injuries have disrupted his career, but has quick feet and is a skilful operator. Slight nature makes him a free-kick magnet for skipper Gareth Bale to exploit.
Key stat: Opened his Wales goal account in 2020 against Bulgaria on his 25th appearance.
Aaron Ramsey (Nice, 31, 75, 20)
Goalscoring midfielder who has been performing at the highest level for over a decade. Spent 11 years at Arsenal before tasting European football at Juventus and Nice. Injuries have plagued him but Ramsey is often the man for the big occasion, and scored at both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020.
Key stat: Sixth on the list of highest Wales men’s all-time goalscorers.
Harry Wilson (Fulham, 25, 38, 5)
Ball-playing midfielder at his best on right, although he has occupied a central position for Wales to good effect. Pre-season injury looked as if it could threaten his World Cup place at one point. But back in the Fulham fold over the last month and offers the Dragons another attacking option.
Key stat: Youngest player to play for Wales, at the age of 16 years and 207 days.
Daniel James (Fulham, on loan from Leeds, 24, 38, 5)
Electric pace and ability to stretch defences has made him an automatic starter both for Page and his predecessor Ryan Giggs. Sometimes criticised for his final product, he has a knack of scoring important goals. Sparked Wales’ World Cup campaign into life with winner against the Czech Republic.
Key stat: Started Wales’ last 33 competitive matches since making his debut in March 2019.
Gareth Bale (Los Angeles FC, 33, 108, 40)
Wales’ captain, talisman and arguably their greatest ever player. Now spending the twilight days of his career in California but still capable of great moments, as shown by the last-gasp goal that helped secure LAFC their first MLS Cup. Heroics against Austria and Ukraine booked Wales’ World Cup spot.
Key stat: Wales’ men’s national team record scorer – 40 goals in 108 appearances.
Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth, 30, 29, 9)
A big player for Wales in every sense of the word. The 6ft 5in frontman is a huge physical presence who occupies central defenders but also has the mobility to run into the channels. Decent goalscoring record since his 2019 arrival into the squad, but tendency to pick up bookings is cause for concern.
Key stat: Played for 11 clubs in nomadic career before making the Premier League at Bournemouth.
Mark Harris (Cardiff, 23, 5, 0)
Yet to score at international level and not always first-choice for his club Cardiff. But willing runner who has good movement and creates space for others. Made debut in World Cup win away to Belarus in September 2021 and will fill role of back-up striker in Qatar.
Key stat: Played for three of Wales’ professional clubs – Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham.
Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest, 21, 15, 2)
Quicksilver forward who had a memorable breakthrough season at Nottingham Forest last term as his hometown club were promoted to the Premier League. Also adapted to international level smoothly with goals against Belgium and Netherlands, and is challenging for a starting spot in Qatar.
Key stat: Scored 21 goals for club and country last season.
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Concerned that there are a number of players in this squad who’ve hardly played at all recently. A world cup is no place for any player who’s not matchfit. Cant help feeling the Wales manager has let his heart rule his head with a few of his selections.
76 years old, born and raised in Boston Mass. Looking forward to Wales efforts in the Cup. I will be rooting for Wales to beat the USA team in game one