Wales v Estonia: Robert Page welcomes return of unlimited crowds for World Cup qualifier in Cardiff
Robert Page says it’s ‘massive’ to have unlimited crowds again as Wales aim to climb to second place in their World Cup qualifying group by beating Estonia on Wednesday.
Wales are third with two wins and a loss so far, one point behind the Czech Republic and seven behind leaders Belgium – but having played two games fewer than both.
Estonia have lost all three of their matches and are ranked 110th in the world – 91 places below Page’s side.
“We’ve got everything to play for,” said the Wales manager.
“We’re not ruling out top spot, we’re going to give everything we can.”
Wales are searching for a second win in four days after Gareth Bale’s hat-trick gave them a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory against Belarus in Russia on Sunday.
Page’s men had trailed 2-1 but Bale struck in the third minute of injury time, as Wales won a game having come from behind for the first time since beating Belgium in their Euro 2016 quarter-final.
The match against Estonia will have the added significance of being Wales’ first home game since the coronavirus pandemic where there will be no limit on the number of supporters allowed inside the stadium.
“It’s massive. The supporters have always been a part of our achievements over the years,” said Page.
“To be part of that, when we qualified for the Euros a couple of years ago, was a great experience for me – and I was a supporter back in Euro 2016.
“If you’re holding on to a win and you’ve got to dig deep, they’re there with you and they’re singing and chanting. It does help you get across the line, so they can play a massive part.
“We’re up against a very good Estonia team and we’re fully prepared for that. Our short-term aim is to take three points. We’re taking each game as it comes and we’ve got some tough fixtures in October and November.
“We’ve had 13 players out, so it’s an opportunity in October and November to get people back fit and raring to go.”
Wales were without 13 players against Belarus, but they will be boosted by the return of four of those against Estonia.
Ethan Ampadu, Tyler Roberts and Brandon Cooper are available having missed the trip to Kazan in Russia due to visa issues, while Harry Wilson is back after serving a one-match suspension.
Wales have also added Joe Rodon to the squad after the Tottenham Hotspur centre-back recovered from an unspecified injury.
Wales had hoped Aaron Ramsey may also join the squad, but the Juventus midfielder has not recovered from a thigh problem.
“We’ve been in constant contact with the club and Aaron himself,” added Page.
“He pushed and pushed, but he just fell short of where they wanted him to be to allow him to come away.
“It’s frustrating, but we’ve got other players we can give the opportunity to.”
Estonia defender Joonas Tamm is doubtful after picking up a knock in their 5-2 defeat to Belgium last week, with the 42-cap centre-back sitting out Sunday’s friendly loss against Northern Ireland.
- Wales have won their two previous matches against Estonia, both friendlies in May 1994, a 2-1 win in Tallinn, and May 2009 when they won 1-0 in Llanelli.
- Estonia have lost six of their seven away World Cup and Euro qualifiers against England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, with their solitary win coming in October 2011 at Northern Ireland.
- Wales have lost just one of their past 16 home qualifying matches, with 10 wins, five draws and the solitary defeat against the Republic of Ireland in October 2017.
- Estonia have won one of their past 18 away qualifying matches, thrashing Gibraltar 6-0 in October 2017, but drawing four and losing 13, failing to score 14 times in that run with those six goals making up 60% of their total goals scored (10).
- Wales have conceded only three goals in their past 13 home games in all competitions, remaining unbeaten in all 13 with 10 wins and three draws, while never conceding more than once in a game in this run.
- Wales scored three goals last time out versus Belarus, as many as they had netted in their previous seven games in all competitions combined.
- Wales have conceded seven goals in their past three competitive games (2.3 per game), one more than they had shipped in their previous 13 such fixtures (six conceded at 0.5 per game).
- Gareth Bale scored his second hat-trick for Wales against Belarus, following his treble against China in March 2018. Bale has been involved in all five of Wales’ goals in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, with three goals and two assists.
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