Rob Page’s future as Wales boss is on a knife edge as he prepares for the Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia on Monday that could decide the fate of himself and his team.
With only the top two in each group qualifying automatically for next summer’s finals in Germany, Wales are fourth – three points behind second-placed Croatia having played a game more – heading into the crucial clash in Riga.
Page signed a four-year deal only a year ago but results have been dire since then, with Wales performing dreadfully at last winter’s World Cup and showing no signs of improvement since. Latvia have lost all four games so far and if Wales cannot make that five in five, Page’s employers at the Welsh FA will be left with a decision to make.
They face Croatia and Turkey at home in their final three qualifiers, either side of a trip to Armenia, who won 4-2 in Cardiff in June.
Rob Page’s future as Wales boss is on a knife edge as he prepares for Monday’s qualifier
Page was typically defiant as he contemplated Wales’ alarming slide since he agreed his new contract. ‘I’ve played since I was 16 and had criticism all my life,’ he said. ‘As a player, coach and manager. It comes with the job.
‘You are going to be tested and have challenging times. It’s how you react and respond to it. Ex-players and coaches who are out of work have their own agendas.
‘I refuse to get caught up in that and all we control is getting three points against Latvia. If we can do that, we look forward to October. We still believe.’
Publicly at least, the players are behind Page. Even though his powers were fading, Gareth Bale was an inspiration for both the squad and the country and his retirement has left a big gap.
Defender Chris Mepham said: ‘We’re responsible. As a manager you can only give so much. It was important that we have his back and we show that we’re more than good enough to get results.
‘You don’t want to put needless pressure on yourself, but at the same time we’re all realistic and we know that if we don’t get a result then it could be a really tough campaign for us. It’s must-win, I think we know that.’