Wales manager Rob Page said yesterday he wanted his players to ignore talk of a potential Euro 2024 play-off as they bid to snatch automatic qualification for the tournament.
Page’s side must beat Turkiye in their last Group D qualifier today and hope Croatia do not defeat Armenia. That combination of results would seal a top two finish and send Wales to next year’s tournament in Germany.
If they fail to qualify via that route, Wales are guaranteed a play-off place in March, but it is not an option Page wants to contemplate.
Page and Ian Mitchell, Wales’ head of performance psychology, have addressed the issue with the squad ahead of the sell-out clash at the Cardiff City Stadium.
“We’re having no talk of play-offs. If we’re talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That’s our mentality and attitude,” Page told reporters.
“We’re fully focused on the job we’ve got and we don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes.
“I addressed that at a meeting with the players and I got Mitch to speak about it as well.
“We’re not admitting defeat and thinking ‘why not?’ because potentially we can qualify if the other result goes our way.
“What I don’t want to do is walk off at the end of the game, the result’s gone for us, and we could have taken charge of it,” he added.
Wales are attempting to reach a fourth major tournament in their last five attempts.
They had automatic qualification in their own hands before Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw in Armenia. Croatia took advantage by winning 2-0 in Latvia to move into second spot behind already-qualified Turkiye.
Page suggested that he would be kept informed of events in the Croatia game in Zagreb today as Wales seek to clinch qualification in the most dramatic fashion.
“What we do need, from minute one, is energy. Off the back of (Turkiye’s) result against Germany and the threat they pose, we have to have energy in that team,” Page said.
“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 playing too much domestically.
“There potentially could be changes, or at least coming off the bench and having an impact.”
Southgate targets No. 1 ranking for England
Gareth Southgate says he is driven to make England the world’s top-ranked team, stressing there is no room for “sloppiness” as they seek to end their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on a high.
England, who face North Macedonia in Skopje, are all but assured of being among the top seeds in next month’s draw for the finals in Germany.
But they were disappointing in Friday’s 2-0 victory against Malta at Wembley and will be keen to improve against lowly North Macedonia, whom they hammered 7-0 at Old Trafford in June.
“Qualification’s done,” the England boss told British media ahead of the Group C finale.
“With the games at the weekend, we might be ranked third in the world at the minute (England are fourth in the latest published FIFA rankings), but we’re two places off where we need to be so we can’t waste games.
“Some of the players have got three games to get into a squad, some have got maybe three to get into a team.”
Southgate said the level of performance had to be “spot on every time”.
World Cup winners Argentina are top of the rankings, with France in second place and Brazil third. England have been in the top five for five straight years. Asked if being number one drives him on, Southgate said: “Yeah, because ultimately you achieve that through consistency and you’ve got to play well in the tournaments as well because the ranking points are higher in the tournaments.
“Also, it sets behaviours every day on the training pitch, off the training pitch.
“If you are going to be the top-ranked team, there’s no room for sloppiness or casualness. That’s got to be our drive.”
England’s final camp of the year has been disrupted by absentees.
Five players withdrew from the original squad through injury and two more departed the squad before they flew to the Balkans.
The Football Association announced Kieran Trippier had gone home due to a personal issue, while injury meant Jarrod Bowen left the camp on Sunday.
Wales' coach Rob Page