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Caretaker boss Robert Page hailed Wales’ Nations League promotion and the part that absent manager Ryan Giggs played in it after a 3-1 home victory over Finland.
Harry Wilson, Daniel James and Kieffer Moore scored as Wales were promoted to League A and virtually guaranteed themselves a 2022 World Cup play-off spot.
Page was in interim charge for the third time following Giggs’ arrest over an alleged row with girlfriend Kate Greville at his Manchester home on November 1.
The 46-year-old former Manchester United star, who has denied all allegations of assault made against him, has been bailed amid an ongoing Greater Manchester Police investigation.
Page, the former Wales Under-21 manager who joined Giggs’ coaching staff 15 months ago, said: “We did not take this whole campaign light-heartedly.
“We knew the rewards were there, potentially to get a World Cup place irrespective of where you finish in your group.
“It’s a great achievement. What Ryan started in this campaign, to go unbeaten and to win in the manner that they did, I was pleased.
“I am extremely proud of that group of players in there, as is Ryan. I spoke to Ryan straight away at the end of the game.
“He’s extremely proud of the players, how they’ve gone about their business and how they’ve handled the camp, to show the resilience and win the group.
“I’ve got mixed emotions, but you’re proud to play for your country, lead them out as a captain, and to stand in the technical area leading them is a proud moment.”
Wales were handed a one-man advantage after just 12 minutes when Finland defender Jere Uronen dragged down Wilson with the forward through on goal.
Wilson opened the scoring after 29 minutes and James added a second moments after the restart before Norwich striker Teemu Pukki set up an anxious finale.
But Moore headed home six minutes from time to ensure that Wales, who have not lost a competitive fixture since June 2019 – a record-breaking run of 11 games – would finish top of Group B4.
“If you could bottle that feeling and see what you’ve seen in the changing rooms you’d make millions,” Page said after Wales had scored more than once for the first time since qualifying for Euro 2020 last November.
“We showed our intent from the first minute on the pitch and rose to the occasion.
“When you get both sides of the game right it shows what we’re capable of doing.”
Wales can now look forward to next month’s World Cup draw but, whatever happens, are almost certain to be involved in a play-off for Qatar 2022.
“Work carries on as normal,” Page said. “We’ve got a bit of downtime now until we’re next together.
“But planning absolutely stays the same and we crack on as normal.”