WALES’ disastrous back-to-back defeats at Euro 2024 have all but dashed their hopes of automatically qualifying for Germany.
Back-to-back defeats to Armenia (2-4) and Turkey (2-0) in June left the Dragons fourth in Group D. Angry fans are now demanding the sacking of coach Robert Page who has come under fire.
Halfway through qualifying, Wales are five points behind leaders Turkey, while Armenia and Croatia are also above them, despite the World Cup semi-finalists having played two games fewer.
Here’s SunSport’s Phil Cadden assessing where it all went wrong for Wales and Page…
Wales got off to a positive start to the EURO season with four points in March, but that only masked the widening cracks.
The Dragons have won just once in their last 12 games – a 1-0 home win over Latvia.
That win in Cardiff was also their only goal in that worrying crisis.
Since losing 4-0 to Denmark at Euro 2020 two summers ago, Wales have won just six of their subsequent 24 victories, with the other wins coming twice against Belarus, Estonia, Austria and Ukraine.
It is Page to his credit for taking charge in difficult circumstances following the arrest of Ryan Giggs in 2020 and guiding Wales to the World Cup last November – a first global appearance since 1958.
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Another factor in the recent sad development was encounters with superior opponents after promotion to League A of the Nations League.
But the truth is results and performance have been shaky for some time and without retired superstars Gareth Bale and Joe Allen there are major concerns about the quality and strength of the team.
Page’s flop took just one point in three group games in Qatar, scoring once – a Bale penalty against the USA.
The 48-year-old made changes as Nick Davies and Eric Ramsay replaced Tony Strudwick and Kit Symons on the coaching staff, while Aaron Ramsey replaced Bale as captain.
But little has changed.
The chaotic 4-2 defeat by Armenia revealed weaknesses in the Welsh defense and defection in midfield.
In Wales’ success under Chris Coleman, Giggs and Page early in their tenure, they played at five-man defense and were hard to beat for skill, team spirit and Bale’s brilliance.
Page’s side need to be better defensively to compete with the European elite. They lack top players and the age-old problem of not having enough players in the Premier League.
While Brennan Johnson has impressed in the top flight, he doesn’t have the X-factor of all the record goalscorers and international defenders Bale.
Three red cards in Wales’ last six internationals suggest a lack of discipline. Wayne Hennessey was sent off against Iran for a karate kick on Mehdi Taremi.
Kieffer Moore received a red card after kicking out Armenia goalkeeper Ognjen Chancharevich.
And then Joe Morrell was sent off for an ugly studs-up challenge against Turkey’s Ferdi Kadioglu.
All three red cards were naive and bad decision making.
Page turns the line Wales need to win all four remaining games – Latvia away, Croatia home, Armenia away, Turkey at home – to secure a place in the top two.
But that seems impossible given their rank form.
The Dragons haven’t had four wins since Giggs’ side in September 2020.
Wales started this run with victories over Azerbaijan and Hungary in November 2019 to reach Euro 2020.
Then came Nations League success against Finland and Bulgaria 11 months later behind closed doors during Covid.
Remarkably, Wales were still able to qualify via a play-off for Germany thanks to their previous Nations League record.
A home semi-final against Estonia next March is possible.
However, Wales aren’t winning enough games to inspire confidence.
THE FUTURE OF THE PAGE
The Football Association of Wales rewarded Page with a four-year deal last September after securing his World Cup spot.
But Dragons fans have had enough, and are showering CEO Noel Mooney with Page Out posts in response to his tweet from the Samsun stands on Monday night.
Coleman and Giggs were also criticized for poor results, but former FAW boss Jonathan Ford stood his ground.
Now Mooney and the FAW Board and Council members must make a big decision.
Are you staying with Page or making a change before fall?
Former Welsh defender Danny Gabbidon thinks Page should be given a chance to finish the season.
Coleman’s former assistant Osian Roberts was asked after the Turkey defeat if he would consider returning should a position become vacant and he said: “Who knows. You can never say that in the future.”
SunSport understand the former Crystal Palace No. 2 plans to succeed Patrick Vieira in his next managerial post, with Leeds keen on the French world champions.
Ex-Wales captain Ashley Williams could also be a short-term option if the FAW scraps Page.