Five talking points ahead of Wales’ Nations League clash with Poland
Wales meet Poland in a Nations League on Sunday with their survival hopes intact.
Poland’s 2-0 home defeat to Holland means that bottom-placed Wales can leapfrog them with a Cardiff victory and remain in the top tier of European football.
The Dragons must win to stay in League A and send Poland down to League B.
Wales have much to improve after a poor start against Belgium saw them down 2-0 by half time. They played better in the second half and pulled back a goal through Kieffer Moore.
Here are the main talking points surrounding the Cardiff City Stadium clash.
1.) World Cup send-off
Wales fans hope to see their team go to the World Cup on a high by keeping their place at the top table of European football. Although Wales’ second appearance at a World Cup – and first for 64 years – is less than two months away, manager Robert Page has stressed the value of playing the continent’s best teams in the Nations League.
Page has been able to expose young players to top-level opposition, and believes his squad will benefit from that at the World Cup in Qatar and beyond.
2.) Bale call
Captain Gareth Bale came on as a 64th-minute substitute in Wales’ 2-1 defeat to Belgium on Thursday. Bale called it a “wise” decision after he had arrived late into the Wales camp from his American base in Los Angeles and was still suffering the effects of jet lag.
The 33-year-old is building up his fitness ahead of the World Cup, with his MLS game time being carefully managed. But it seems likely Wales’ talisman will play from the start in Cardiff with so much on the line.
3.) Squad stretched
Wales were thin on numbers before the Belgium loss with Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen absent through injury. Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu are also unavailable against Poland after picking up their second yellow cards of the competition.
Chris Gunter or Ben Cabango seem likely to be drafted into the back-line on Sunday, with Joe Morrell a probable starter in midfield.
4.) Polish threat
Poland were unable to build on their opening-day Nations League win against Wales and were hammered 6-1 in Belgium. But they did hold group leaders the Netherlands to a 2-2 draw in Rotterdam, and in Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski have an undoubted world star.
Lewandowski has scored over 600 times for club and country, and his 76 goals in 133 Poland appearances puts him third on the men’s scoring list in Europe behind Ferenc Puskas and Cristiano Ronaldo.
5.) Losing streak
Wales suffered a fifth straight defeat to Poland in June as late goals from substitutes Jakub Kaminski and Karol Swiderski gave the hosts a 2-1 Nations League win in Wroclaw.
Jonny Williams had earlier put Wales ahead. Wales’ solitary win in nine games against Poland came in their maiden meeting in March 1973.
Leighton James and Trevor Hockey scored as Wales won a World Cup qualifier 2-0. Poland won the Katowice return 3-0, and there were two goalless draws before Wales’ current losing streak.
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