Page expecting Wales’ stars to show up

Wales (10/11 To qualify) boss Robert Page is in confident mood ahead of Thursday’s World Cup play-off semi-final at home to Austria (4/5) and says his country have “big players who always turn up for the party”.

Wales host Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium with the winner going through to face either Scotland or Ukraine for a place in the World Cup in Qatar later this year, although Scotland’s clash with Ukraine has been postponed and is likely to be played in June.

Page will be referring to Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who is currently on loan at Rangers, and experienced Stoke man Joe Allen as his “big players” with all three likely to be key if the Dragons are to progress from the showdown in the Welsh capital.

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The Wales chief says everyone in the camp knows the importance of the game as they try to secure qualification for a World Cup for the first time since 1958.

He said: “It is a final for us in many respects. We have to win the game and are going to go for it. We have not spoken too much about the importance of it, players know the importance.

“We don’t need to emphasise it. We have big players who always turn up to the party. We will be fully ready for it.”

Bale has trained in the build-up and is set to start despite missing El Clasico for his club against Barcelona at the weekend because of illness. The 32-year-old has only played two games for Real since his last international appearance in November 2021 but remains his country’s biggest talent.

Ramsey scored his first goal for Rangers on Sunday, having joined on loan from Juventus in January, but striker Kieffer Moore, goalkeeper Danny Ward, forward Tyler Roberts and defender James Lawrence are all unavailable through injury and midfielder Joe Morrell is suspended.

There are three other World Cup play-off semi-finals later with Italy (1/20 – To qualify) taking on North Macedonia (8/1) in Palermo, Portugal (1/7 To qualify) host Turkey (4/1) in Porto and Sweden (4/9 To qualify) entertain Czech Republic (13/8) in Solna.

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