Poland talking points: Wales begin Nations League days before World Cup decider

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Wales start their Nations League campaign in Poland on Wednesday.

The game comes just four days before the World Cup play-off final against Scotland or Ukraine in Cardiff to decide a place at this year’s finals in Qatar.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points surrounding the clash at Wroclaw’s Tarczynski Arena.

Bale breather?

Gareth Bale became the first British player to win five Champions League titles on Saturday. Bale did not step foot on the pitch in Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool as his nine-year stay in Spain came to an end.

What Bale does next might depend on whether Wales make it to Qatar in November. There has been talk of a Tottenham return, a short-term deal at hometown club Cardiff, or a move to the United States were Wales to qualify, with retirement possibly an option if Wales fail to do so.

The 32-year-old could get a Wroclaw breather to make sure he is ready for the World Cup play-off.

Rising star Johnson given rest after Wembley triumph

Huddersfield Town v Nottingham Forest – Sky Bet Championship – Play Off – Final – Wembley Stadium
Brennan Johnson celebrates Nottingham Forest’s promotion to the Premier League on Sunday (John Walton/PA)

Wales manager Robert Page has described Brennan Johnson as “the future of Welsh football” and there is no disputing the exciting Nottingham Forest forward has had a huge breakthrough season.

Johnson, who turned 21 last week, scored 19 goals as Forest returned to the Premier League after a 23-year absence by beating Huddersfield in Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final.

Forest’s win will provide him with the perfect energy boost at the end of a campaign where he has played 60 games for club and country, but he will not feature against Poland after Page decided to let him stay at home and recover from the revelry that followed victory at Wembley.

Comforting Sorba

Sorba Thomas file photo
Sorba Thomas links up with the Wales squad after Huddersfield’s play-off final heartbreak (Mike Egerton/PA)

Whereas Johnson was a Wembley winner, Huddersfield’s Sorba Thomas’ emotions were at the other end of the scale.

Thomas recovered from injury to take his starting place for the Terriers, but the wideman was unable to hurt Forest in the way he has done to so many Championship defences.

Page says he is part-psychologist at the end of the season with several members of his squad experiencing differing fortunes in club football, and he must assess what Wembley has taken out of Thomas before deciding how best to use him in Wroclaw.

Nations League promise

Wales v Belgium – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales manager Robert Page has promised to use his squad throughout June’s Nations League programme (David Davies/PA)

Fate has forced Page to trust his squad in Wales’ first top-flight Nations League campaign. The delayed World Cup play-off final has been shoehorned into what was already a hectic Nations League schedule.

After Sunday’s showdown, Wales will welcome Holland and Belgium to Cardiff before meeting the Dutch again in Rotterdam.

Page can not risk his main players ahead of playing Scotland or Ukraine, and there will be opportunities for others in Wroclaw. It will be the same throughout June as the Wales boss has promised to test his squad depth.

Past meetings

Soccer – International Friendly – Wales v Poland – Vila Real De Santo Antonio Sports Complex
Joe Ledley in action for Wales during their last meeting with Poland, a 1-0 friendly defeat in Portugal in February 2009 (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Wales have a poor record against Poland, with their only win in eight games coming in the maiden fixture in March 1973. Leighton James and Trevor Hockey scored in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Cardiff, but Poland won the Katowice return 3-0.

The next two games, in 1990 and 2001, were goalless draws but Poland have since won four in a row.

The last meeting between the two nations was a 2009 friendly in Portugal, when just 487 people turned up to see Poland win 1-0 in a game that featured Craig Bellamy, Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski.

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