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Manager Robert Page urges Wales to seize World Cup play-off place

Wales manager Robert Page
(Image credit: PA)

Robert Page has urged his Wales players to seize a World Cup play-off place after their thrilling qualifying draw with the Czech Republic.

Wales’ 2-2 draw in Prague on Friday has left the Dragons trailing the second-placed Czechs on goal difference, but with a game in hand.

With Belgium eight points clear at the top of Group E and set to claim the one automatic qualification place, Wales and the Czech Republic are involved in a fascinating battle for second spot – and the play-off place that comes with it.

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Wales are almost-certainly guaranteed a play-off place due to their Nations League results last year, but finishing second could secure a more favourable draw in the March play-offs.

“We’re frustrated because we should have six points from the last two games instead of two,” said Wales manager Page, referring to their draws against Estonia and the Czech Republic.

“But second spot is still on. We’ve got three games left, the Czech Republic have got two.

“It’s in our hands and we’re already prepared and ready for this big game against Estonia on Monday.”

Czech Republic v Wales – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – Sinobo Stadium

Wales recovered from Danny Ward’s own goal to collect a precious point in the Czech Republic (CTK/PA)

Estonia climbed off the bottom of the group by beating Belarus 2-0 on Friday and Wales head to Tallinn with ground to make up on the Czech Republic.

In the event of two teams being tied at the end of qualification, teams are split by first, goal difference and then goals scored before head-to-head results are taken into account.

Wales, who were without injured captain Gareth Bale in Prague, are currently one behind the Czechs in terms of goal difference and have scored three fewer goals.

Only if those two categories were equal would Wales’ superior record against the Czechs – a win and a draw – count.

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After their trip to Tallinn, Wales complete their programme with November home games against Belarus and Belgium.

The Czech Republic finish with a trip to Belarus on Monday and a home game against Estonia next month.

“We’re disappointed we’ve come away with a draw so that shows how far we’ve come,” Page said after an Aaron Ramsey-inspired Wales had fought back from a calamitous own goal from goalkeeper Danny Ward to share the spoils in Prague.

“We nullified them a lot of the time and with DJ (Daniel James) up top, we knew we could do them on the counter.

Czech Republic Wales WCup 2022 Soccer

Daniel James (left) celebrates scoring Wales’ second goal in their 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic (Petr David Josek/AP)

“We’ve dominated the game and created enough chances to score three or four goals.

“I said to the players that it wasn’t the result we wanted but it was the performance we were after.

“If we can continue to perform like that camp after camp you’re going to win more games than you lose.

“I couldn’t be more proud of those players and now we move on for another big game on Monday.”