Having at best hobbled their chances of automatic qualification for the European Championship finals in German with Saturday’s exasperating 1-1 draw with Armenia, Wales must beat Turkey in tonight’s qualifier in Cardiff and cross their fingers that Croatia somehow fail to beat Armenia in Zagreb this evening to secure a top-two spot in Group D.
Wales have already guaranteed a play-off place in March but it is not a path Wales wish to tread and Page has banished all talk of relying on that route before the game at Cardiff City Stadium. “We’re having no talk of play-offs,” the head coach who took them to Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup said. “If we’re talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That’s our mentality and attitude. We’re fully focused on the job we’ve got and we don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes.”
Wales had automatic qualification in their own hands before Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Armenia when Page’s side were fortunate to return home with a point. Croatia took advantage by winning 2-0 in Latvia to move into second spot behind already-qualified Turkey.
Luton defender Tom Lockyer is expected to replace the suspended Chris Mepham and make his first competitive appearance since September 2021. Brennan Johnson and Daniel James should also return to sharpen up the attack against opponents who beat Wales 2-0 in June and warmed up for their trip to Cardiff by beating Germany 3-2 in a Berlin friendly on Saturday.
“What we do need, from minute one, is energy,” Page said. “Off the back of their result against Germany and the threat they pose, we have to have energy in that team. This is the first time in a while that we’ve had two competitive games in quick succession.
“We’re not blessed with a pool of players coming in that are not playing too much domestically. There potentially could be changes, or at least coming off the bench and having an impact.”
Vincenzo Montella, who has won both his games as Turkey’s manager after succeeding Stefan Kuntz in September, is determined his side qualify for their third successive Euro finals in style by beating Wales to secure top spot and a place in Pot 1 for the draw.
“We have come all this way to Cardiff prepared,” the former Italy, Roma and, briefly, Fulham striker said. “We have come here top of this group and that is the way we want to finish it. We want to maintain this leadership and we are focused on what we have to do, show our standing and our performance levels.”