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Wales hopefuls play their way into Robert Page plans for Euro 2020 campaign

Rob Page File Photo
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Caretaker manager Robert Page believes Wales’ Euro 2020 hopefuls boosted their chances of securing summer selection by beating Mexico.

Page, who was again standing in for absent boss Ryan Giggs, named an entirely different side on Saturday night to the one who suffered an opening 2022 World Cup qualifying defeat in Belgium three days earlier.

Captain Chris Gunter became the first Welshman to make 100 appearances for the national team and fit-again goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey won cap number 95.

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But it was largely an inxperienced team who claimed Wales’ first win over Mexico in five attempts, against opponents ranked ninth in the world and beaten only once in their previous 22 games.

“This has been a big camp for us for many reasons,” Page said.

“We’ve got World Cup qualifiers, we’ve had a friendly in between. We knew coming into it we would have to change the team because obviously the two qualifiers are the most important thing for us.

“But these players have done themselves absolutely no harm.

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“They have gone out and we have had to take note of their performance. That will play a factor in what we do now in the summer and at the Euros.”

Defenders Ben Cabango and Rhys Norrington-Davies, midfielder Jonny Williams and striker Kieffer Moore – who settled matters with his fifth international goal – all impressed ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in Cardiff.

Matthew Smith’s composure and passing range also stood out in the Wales midfield as the Manchester City youngster surely booked his ticket to this summer’s delayed European Championship.

Page said: “Our young players need to be out playing competitive football, that’s the message we give them, and Matt’s a great example of that.

Wales v Mexico – International Friendly – Cardiff City Stadium

Midfielder Matthew Smith boosted his Euro 2020 selection ambitions by impressing in Wales’ win over Mexico (David Davies/PA)

“The loan last season didn’t work out for him. He got called back by Manchester City and sent out to Doncaster.

“I’ve seen him three times in the last month and he’s given performances like that week in, week out.”

“Also Dylan Levitt. He’s gone out to play competitive football (for Croatian club Istra) and it’s certainly worked for him as well.

“I thought the two of them were magnificent in the centre of the park against experienced players with a lot of caps in a top-10 ranked team.”

Wales v Mexico – International Friendly – Cardiff City Stadium

Ben Cabango, right, and Mexico’s Hirving Lozano clashed during Wales’ 1-0 win (David Davies/PA)

Cabango was involved in a heated confrontation with Napoli’s Hirving Lozano and appeared to make a gesture towards the Mexican forward.

But Wales are confident there will be no official sanction taken against the 20-year-old Swansea defender.

“It’s all part of the game,” Page said. “They try to get under your skin a little bit and get you to retaliate.

“I mentioned it at half-time having seen what they were up to in the first half. They were prepared to dish it out but didn’t like it back.

Croatia v Wales – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Stadion Gradski Vrt

Wales are unsure whether James Lawrence’s German club St Pauli will release him for the World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic (Adam Davy/PA)

“I just said, ‘Don’t get involved’. To win the game we need 11 players on the pitch and I was really pleased with that aspect. Any time they could have retaliated and got involved, but they didn’t.”

Defender James Lawrence has been cleared to face the Czech Republic.

The St Pauli defender returned to Germany following the Belgium defeat as local Covid-19 quarantine regulations prevented him from travelling to the UK.

But those restrictions have now been eased and Lawrence has been cleared by the local health authorities to travel to Wales on Sunday to join up with the squad.