Robert Page tells Wales to put ‘big boy pants on’ against ‘beatable’ England

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Rob Page has hinted that he could make changes to his Wales starting lineup to play England on Tuesday, and told his players to put their “big boy pants on” and put in a performance worthy of the nation after a disappointing World Cup campaign so far.

Wales have underperformed in Qatar, and face elimination at the group stages unless they beat England – and even then that might not be enough if other results don’t go their way. Wales have only played with purpose for one half of football in the tournament so far – the second half in the 1-1 draw with the USA – and have also lost to Iran after being outplayed for the duration.

Page and the Welsh players are under no illusions that they haven’t yet delivered, and the boss has called on his players to put it right in potentially their final match of the tournament.

Asked if the team owed the fans a performance after the first matches, Page said: “Absolutely. We’ve worked so hard to get into this position.

“My frustration and disappointment for the players is that we’ve shown nowhere near the levels of performance that have got us to this World Cup. That’s what really disappoints me.

“We’ve picked them up, we’ve addressed it, we’ve got to draw a line under it, the last performance.

“Irrespective of the other result, whether we go home or whether we go through, we have to give a performance that our supporters can be proud of. We want to react in a positive manner and I’ll pick a team that’ll go out and give everything to the cause.”

Page has come under fire for failing to change his tactical plan in Qatar so far, despite star players Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale not hitting the heights they’re known to be capable of. Both the wrong side of 30 and lacking fitness, their energy levels have left noticeable gaps in key areas of the pitch.

Page has hinted that he could instead feature youth options in their place, but didn’t give any firm plans away as Wales look to frustrate England and match their intensity.

“It’s a big ask for anybody in this environment to go four days later,” he said of Bale and Ramsey playing tournament football. “I’m going to pick a team that I think can go out and compete against England, whether that’s with or without them. I’m not going to give that away today.

“If they don’t start, can they can make an impact? That’s always been my dilemma playing games in quick succession. If they start one game, can they start the next? My thought process won’t be any different.

“Whether they come on and have an impact or start and last an hour or 90 minutes, they are talented footballers.

“They do it every day in training, honestly they do. They inspire the lads everyday in training. Tough times at the minute but we’ll get on with it. Whatever part they play in that game tomorrow night, they are ready for it. We’re all hurting as a group because we know we are frustrated that we haven’t given a good account of ourselves. We’ll do our best to go and put that right.

“We’re all getting criticism now and rightly so because results aren’t going our way and that’s the industry we’re in. We’re big enough to take it – it’s not a problem. We put our big boy pants on and get on with it.”

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Page went on to admit that some of the upsets in the tournament so far mean it’s not necessarily out of the question that Wales secure a surprise victory.

“We are hurting as a group because we know we’re better than what we’re showing,” he said. “That is the motivation we need at the minute. It just so happens to be that it’s England we’re playing against. 

“I think this tournament has shown every team is beatable so of course England are beatable. Of course they are going to be favourites to win the game. We just have to focus on us.

“The group want a positive reaction and show our red wall that we are not just here to give disappointing performances, we want to give a good account of ourselves.

“We have to manage the emotions of that and just have treat it like every other game and hopefully get a positive performance to show our supporters.”

Wales play England at 7pm UK time on Tuesday night, knowing that only a win by four clear goals would guarantee them qualification.

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