Rob Page: Wales would rather not play South Korea friendly with Latvia to come
Rob Page says he wishes Wales were not playing a friendly against South Korea on Thursday.
Wales are not in Euro 2024 action until Monday when they travel to Latvia for a crucial Group D qualifying clash.
But UEFA regulations stipulate that nations in odd-numbered qualifying groups must fulfil blank dates in the calendar when group rivals are playing.
Wales filled this date by arranging a Cardiff friendly with Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea, but the game has failed to capture the imagination of the Welsh public with only 11,500 tickets sold little more than 24 hours before kick-off.
Page is expected to field a shadow side just four days before the Riga showdown with Latvia, and the under-fire Wales boss confirmed that skipper Aaron Ramsey would be absent while adding that Tottenham’s new £47.5million forward Brennan Johnson will be on the bench.
But Page’s comments that he would rather not play the match will certainly do little to encourage fans who have paid for the privilege of watching it.
“We have to take the friendly. I’d rather not play it, being completely honest with you,” Page said at his pre-match press conference.
“We’ve had a couple of injuries anyway. The most important game for me is Monday and we’re having to manage players.
“I’ve already got a plan in place, what players, what minutes they’ve played this season, who needs more minutes than others.
“There will be plenty of substitutions. There will be some at half-time, some at the hour mark. We’ll be trying to get those players off the pitch unscathed and getting them ready for Monday.”
Page has come under pressure following a run of only one win in 12 games either side of the 2022 World Cup when Wales finished bottom of their group and scored only one goal – a penalty from the now-retired Gareth Bale.
Wales have picked up four points from as many Euro 2024 qualifiers and are seeking to recover from back-to-back June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.
Qualifying for the tournament in Germany next summer through the play-offs now appears Wales’ best option.
“Everybody in that changing room understands the difficulties involved,” Page said.
“It’s not just about winning games of football now, it’s about the bigger picture. Everybody wants to win games of football but they understand, the senior players, that we have to start introducing younger players.
“It’s nice to hear their backing (of the senior players). It means a lot, the world to me.”
Joe Morrell and Kieffer Moore are suspended for the Latvia qualifier and set to start against South Korea.
The pair became the latest Wales players to be sent off in June after Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson were red carded at Euro 2020 and Wayne Hennessey was shown his marching orders at the 2022 World Cup.
Page said: “If we are going to compete at this level we need 11 players on the pitch. Both players regret the red cards. They were both disappointing. Kieffer’s red was a bit more disappointing because he rose to the bait.
“They knew what they were doing and they are the masters of the dark arts at that level, and we fell for it. We are better than that and it will be addressed.”