By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 20th 2023)
No Talk of Play-offs
Following disappointing results against Armenia – a loss at home and the recent 1-1 draw in Yerevan on Saturday, Cymru manager Rob Page knows that Wales must defeat an already qualified Turkey to progress, and that will be a hard ask as Turkey not only top Group D, but are unbeaten away as well.
Still, Page won’t talk of qualification through play-offs – they must beat Turkey and hope that Armenia do them a favour against Croatia.
“We’re having no talk of play-offs,” Page said. “If we’re talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That’s our mentality and attitude.
“We’re fully focused on the job we’ve got and we don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes.
“We were aware that (play-offs) would be the talking point because of the disappointment of the Armenia game.”
Wales drew 1-1 on November 18th, a result that ensured Wales will have a play-off at the very least, but automatic qualification is not out of reach.
“We’re not admitting defeat and thinking ‘why not?’ because potentially we can qualify if the other result goes our way,” Page said.
“What I don’t want to do is walk off at the end of the game – the result’s gone for us – and we could have taken charge of it.”
Page must hope that Armenia avoid defeat in Croatia and Wales can get a win against Turkey.
Nevertheless, despite having qualified already, Page knows that he can expect no assistance from his opposite number, Vincenzo Montella, or a resurgent Turkey.
Montella was clear that he would not be fielding an ‘inexperienced’ team or taking it easy against Wales on Tuesday night. “We want to win the group,” Montella told journalists at tonight’s press conference.
“So, we [Turkey] have come all the way to here, to Cardiff, and we are prepared. If you look at the Euro 2024 qualification standings, we are right up there, and we are top of Group D. So, we have come to Wales as group leaders and we want to finish as group winners.”
However, he offered some comfort to Wales.
“We also drew at home to Armenia, so nothing is certain in football,” he said. And Croatia, despite their World Cup heroics have not performed to expectations. Nevertheless, Turkey poses a formidable threat. Montella’s charges are unbeaten in this qualification campaign, but he was giving nothing away on selection for Tuesday’s match.
“When I first prepared for these games we had 29 players and all were fit to play,” Montella said.
“I had to exclude some through injury and some different situations.
“But I believe in these players and, depending on the game and situations, we have different strategies in plan for each match.”
Montella made it clear what he wanted from the match.
“If you look at our history, we have previously had these moments where we strive to win our qualification group. We are prepared for tomorrow’s game and we want to win this game to maintain our position at the top of Group D.
“Actually, nothing is certain in football. So, we not know if this Wales team are going to get a draw or even a victory over us tomorrow. We have to focus on what we have to do during the game. We have to show why we sit on top of Group D and this all we have to do. In essence, we have to deliver a strong performance on the pitch.”
Vincenzo Montella enjoyed a fulfilling career as a striker most notably for Sampdoria and Roma, but also briefly for Fulham. He has coached Sampdoria, Roma and Fiorentina. More recently, he has worked in Turkey, coaching Adana Demirspor for two years – its technical director is Dutch great Patrick Kluivert.
Montella has an affinity with the country, taking over the national team from Stefan Kuntz in June 2023.
“I had two years of experience managing in Turkey and I’ve seen the players there.
“I’ve seen the potential and the performance. I had the chance to get to know them and now this opportunity to work with them.”