Wales battle Poland for Nations League survival

Kieffer Moore, scorer of Wales’ goal in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Belgium, is fit after injuring his elbow in Brussels
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Sunday, 25 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights on BBC One Wales from 22:30 BST and later on demand

A depleted Wales must beat Poland on Sunday to avoid relegation from the top tier of the Nations League.

Wales are bottom of Group A4 having lost four of their five matches but will send Poland down if they avenge their 2-1 defeat in Wroclaw in June.

Robert Page’s side must do so without injured players such as Ben Davies, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Harry Wilson.

Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu will also miss the match at Cardiff City Stadium because of suspension.

However, captain Gareth Bale has declared himself fit to start having appeared as a second-half substitute during Thursday’s defeat in Belgium.

The absence of key players has been one of the overriding themes of Wales’ first campaign at the highest level of the Nations League.

As well as having to cope with injuries and suspensions, Page had to field largely second-string sides in June as he prepared for a World Cup play-off victory over Ukraine which secured Wales’ place in the tournament for the first time since 1958.

Wales have competed admirably considering those limitations, drawing against world number two-ranked Belgium during the summer and twice getting denied well-earned points against the Netherlands by added-time goals.

Wales demonstrated their battling qualities against Belgium on Thursday. Outplayed in the first half and lucky only to trail 2-0 at the break, they fought back and almost claimed an unlikely draw before losing 2-1.

Although that was Wales’ fourth defeat from five matches, Poland’s 2-0 home loss against the Netherlands means victory for Wales in Cardiff on Sunday would be enough for them to overtake their opponents and avoid relegation.

“For our development as a nation, we’ve qualified for three major tournaments. We want to be playing the best teams in Europe and stay in the division, absolutely,” said Page.

“We want to expose our young players to these types of players and teams. Inevitably they will become better going through those experiences.

“I keep saying it, because of the [World Cup play-off] final that we had between the two games had a massive impact on how the table looks.

“But we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance. We will be approaching this game to win and stay in this division.”

Other than the aforementioned Ramsey, Allen, Wilson and Davies, Wales have no new injury concerns following the defeat in Belgium, but Page says there is “a lot of fatigue” among his players.

Striker Kieffer Moore, who scored Wales’ goal in Brussels, is fit after injuring his elbow.

With Mepham and Ampadu suspended, Ben Cabango and Chris Gunter could be in contention to replace the former in defence while Joe Morrell will be among the midfielders vying to take Ampadu’s spot.

As Wales have Bale, Poland will look to their own captain and all-time leading scorer, Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, for inspiration.

“Wales is a team at our level and has the same goal, which is to stay in the top division of the Nations League,” said Poland and Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

“Gareth [Bale] is always a threat. He is one of the best players I have played against. If he is well prepared physically, he will be very dangerous.

“It will be an important game for both teams, but we have the World Cup at the back of our minds. We want to win and stay in League A, but we also want to be healthy and avoid injuries.

“We will do everything to bring home a favourable result for us, not only to stay in the elite, but also to improve the mood before the preparations for the World Cup.”

Match facts

  • Wales are without a win in four games (one draw, three defeats) for the first time since June 2017 (a run of five draws).
  • Wales are winless in their past two home games in all competitions (one draw, one defeat). Not since September 2013 under Chris Coleman have they gone three successive home fixtures without victory.
  • Thursday’s defeat in Belgium means Wales have lost consecutive games for the first time since June 2021, when they were beaten by Italy and Denmark at Euro 2020.
  • Poland are winless in four matches since their opening Nations League victory over Wales in June.
  • Wales have lost each of their past five games against Poland – only against England, Sweden (both six) and the Netherlands (10) do they currently have a longer losing streak against an opponent.
  • Captain Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s record scorer with 76 goals from 133 appearances.
  • Since Robert Page took over as manager in November 2020, only Gareth Bale (seven) has scored more goals for Wales than Kieffer Moore (six).

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