• Dan Tracey


With the UEFA qualifying section for next year’s World Cup soon getting underway, the dreams of 55 separate nations will soon begin and although not all of them can reach Qatar in 2022, Wales will be confident of achieving such a feat.

As Gareth Bale sparks back into life at just the right time, his talents will undoubtedly be called upon once more and whereas Ryan Giggs would have previously thrust him straight into the starting eleven, the man in charge of team selection has a different look for now.

That’s because the former Manchester United midfielder is currently on leave in his role as Welsh national team manager and this has meant that assistant boss Robert Page has been handed a temporary promotion.

A promotion, that saw Page take charge of three Wales matches in 2020, as the USA, the Republic of Ireland and Finland served as the opposition and during this trio of outings, they avoided defeat in all three.

It was a quickfire November treble that thrust the former Watford defender into international management and although he could only manage to oversee a bore draw against the Americans in his first outing, there was plenty more to write home about in the remaining two.

Just three days later, Wales got the better of the Republic of Ireland, as the win came courtesy of a single David Brooks goal halfway through the second half and this was then followed up, by a subsequent 3-1 beating of Finland.

With Ryan Giggs stepping aside because of legal issues, there was at least some hope that matters would be resolved in time for March’s qualifiers. Hopes, that were dashed with the extension of his bail to May 1st.

Which means, the status quo remains for now and after such an impressive start, it would be incredibly difficult to look past Page and more importantly, the continuity that he provides to the Welsh national setup.

Of course, there is still the small matter of the delayed European Championships to deal with this summer and the FAW will be hoping any issues with the current Wales manager, are resolved in good time for the tournament.

If that is not the case, there may be a difficult or easy (depending on which way you look at it) decision to make and the 46-year-old Page may further solidify his case, should Wales get off to a good start in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

However, there will certainly be a baptism of fire for both interim manager and the players that he selects, as the first of Wales’ qualifying opponents are none other than Belgium – the current number one ranked nation in the world.

This means a trip to Brussels to get things started and although a visit of the Czech Republic a week later, is one that looks easier on paper. One must remember that football matches are not played on that surface.

If Wales can get off to a good start, it will certainly serve as momentum for both this summer and their plan to arrive in Qatar next winter. While most importantly, the aim will be to hand back the managerial reins to Ryan Giggs, as they attempt both continental and global supremacy.

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