‘Wales don’t fear anyone in world football,’ says Robert Page
Robert Page insists Wales will fear no one at the World Cup after producing a “statement” performance against Belgium.
Wales had to rely on a controversial late Brennan Johnson equaliser to draw 1-1 with Belgium and pick up their first top-tier Nations League point after losing to Poland and the Netherlands.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez fumed that Johnson’s first Wales goal, which was originally flagged for offside but then stood after a lengthy VAR check, should have been ruled out.
But manager Page hailed the manner of Wales’ display against the world’s number two ranked team, saying his team are in great shape five months away from meeting England, Iran and the United States at the World Cup in Qatar.
“It was the first opportunity to put a team out with one eye on the World Cup,” Page said.
“Either side of the (World Cup play-off) final we were impacted because of that game.
“This was a different kettle of fish. I thought we would go and compete.
“Nothing against the other teams we played, because we should have got draws from those games.
“But this says how far we have come as a group. We don’t fear anyone in world football.
“That’s a benchmark, another statement. When we go a goal behind we don’t give up and we’ll keep going. We’ll go toe to toe with anybody.”
Wales complete their punishing June schedule in Holland on Tuesday, their fifth game in 14 days.
Page has already lost Kieffer Moore to injury, and Joe Allen (hamstring), Joe Morrell (broken toe) and Danny Ward (knee) are all set to miss the Nations League return with the Dutch.
Ben Davies and Connor Roberts also came off against Belgium through fatigue, and may get a breather at the Stadion Feijenoord in Rotterdam.
It also remains to be seen whether skipper Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey will play on Tuesday.
Juventus midfielder Ramsey had injury issues during a Rangers loan spell in the second half of the season, and his only Wales start this month came in the World Cup play-off final against Ukraine.
But he showed his worth by creating seven chances, one more than the entire Belgium side combined, and produced a sublime piece of skill to set up Johnson’s leveller.
“What we asked of Aaron to do is against what he normally does,” Page said of Ramsey, who replaced the injured Allen after 36 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium.
“We wanted him higher up the pitch and we ended up with three 10s on there. It worked thankfully.”
Johnson also made a huge impact after replacing Bale 17 minutes from time.
The 21-year-old took his goal with the same composure that made him a stand-out performer as Nottingham Forest won promotion to the Premier League in the domestic season just finished.
“He’s got incredible pace and an incredible personality,” Martinez said.
“He loves playing on the last man and he is always a threat.
“You can see he’s got a very bright future, especially now next season playing in the highest level.”
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