Page Keen to Build on Nations League Success
International
22 March 2021

Page Keen to Build on Nations League Success

Rob Page will lead Cymru into 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying this week with the daunting challenge of taking on the side that currently sit top of the world rankings.

Belgium vs Cymru

FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

  • Wednesday, 24 March
  • Den Dreef, Leuven 
  • Kick off: 19.45
  • Watch: Sky Sports / S4C

Under the guidance of former Swansea City and Everton manager Roberto Martinez, Belgium reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Top of the FIFA world rankings and boasting a wealth of talent in their ranks, the challenge is a formidable one for Page and his squad, but it is a challenge he is excited for having overseen the successful UEFA Nations League campaign last year. 

“Even though there's been a bit of time in between November and now we still take a massive amount of confidence from it,” explained Page to FAW.cymru following the squad announcement on Monday. “We've shown in the past that things are working well and we don't expect it to be any different in this camp. We need everybody to be firing on all cylinders to get a result as we're up against one of the best teams in the world in Belgium. It's a big ask, but our record against them has been good in the past.”

In fact, Cymru are undefeated in their last four games against the Red Devils, drawing two games in 2013 and 2014 respectively, before claiming famous victories in qualifying for EURO 2016 and again at the finals in France as Belgium were eliminated in the last eight. It was the 3-1 defeat in Lille through goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes that prompted Belgium to change direction and turn to the services of Martinez following the dismissal of Marc Wilmots that summer. 

2020-11-18 - Cymru v Finland -275.jpg

The match marks the start of the journey to Qatar in 2022 with Cymru and Belgium joining Belarus, Estonia and the Czech Republic in Group E. The match will take place behind closed doors at the Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven on Wednesday evening. 

“You've only got to look at the squad of players that they've got,” added Page. “But when you're an international player, you want to play against the best. Belgium are certainly in that category. There's going to be a difference in class to the Nations League, but we'll be focusing on our game plan. It's a World Cup qualifier, and if you make a little mistake, or half a mistake, you will get punished for it. That's the difference the higher level you play, and there are less opportunities to get away with it.”

The match marks the start of a hectic international week for Cymru with a friendly against Mexico in Cardiff on Saturday (27 March) quickly followed by a second World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in the Welsh capital on Tuesday night (30 March). Page has named an initial 31-man squad for the three games, and while he will have a nervous weekend as his players play their final round of club games before meeting up on Sunday, the strength in depth that now exists within the squad means that nothing is decided in terms of selection ahead of the EURO finals in the summer. 

“We've named a bigger squad, bigger than what we probably would have normally without the third game,” he added. “But the friendly against Mexico gives players the opportunity to show what they can do as it's the final camp before the EURO's and it's up to them now. We’re in good form coming into this camp and that's what we will be focusing on. But we will respect what Belgium and what they are all about as they are a very, very good team. However, we also recognise that we've got world class players who can compete with the best.”