CARDIFF — Wales manager Rob Page believes his team’s talisman Gareth Bale will be ready for Sunday’s World Cup playoff against Ukraine after sitting out last Wednesday’s Nations League clash in Poland.
The Welsh have the chance to make their first World Cup finals appearance in 64 years when they take on Ukraine, who won 3-1 in their playoff semifinal against Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday.
Wales lost away in Poland the same day at the start of the new Nations League campaign, letting slip a first-half lead in Wroclaw but also resting key players with the World Cup playoff in mind.
“It was always part of the plan coming in. With the senior players, we ask them what they need to get in the best place for game day. He’s (Bale) got a plan in place, and he didn’t want to veer away from that,” Page told a news conference on Saturday.
Bale has battled with injury again this season and had limited playing time at Real Madrid.
“I’ve learned one thing as Wales manager, that if you want your best players on the pitch, you’ve got to be able to adapt. They’ve never let me down.”
Page will also welcome back the likes of Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey for what will be a tough encounter with a place in the tournament Qatar at stake, with their opponents riding a wave of support amid Russia's invasion of their country.
“I thought they gave a great account of themselves against Scotland,” Page said of the opposition.
“We’ve analyzed the game and Ukraine pose a threat. They’re there for a reason, they’re a good outfit. Irrespective of what they've been through to get here.”
Wales’ only previous World Cup finals appearance was in Sweden in 1958 where they lost to Brazil in the quarterfinals.
“We’re all excited. The atmosphere in the training ground, you can see what they’re all about as a group. We understand the importance, but we’ve got a plan in place and it’s about trusting the plan now,” Page added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Hugh Lawson)