Robert Page has said his Wales players are happy to “dig a trench and put tin hats on” in their quest to reach the European Championship knockout stages after eking out a crucial point in their Group A opener against Switzerland. Kieffer Moore cancelled out Breel Embolo’s second-half header and Page urged Wales to build on the draw when they face Turkey here in Baku on Wednesday.
Italy top the group after beating Turkey 3-0 on Friday but Page is adamant his side are in a strong position after surviving a late scare against Switzerland, when Mario Gavranovic’s late strike was ruled offside.
“To get off to a positive start was important for us,” said Page, the interim Wales manager. “I’ve said to the players, that’s the foundations now. If we have to dig a trench and put our tin hats on at times we will do it and we proved we can do that as well as play. It feels like a win in the changing room. I am so proud of the players. We got a little bit of luck towards the end but that is the start we are after.”
Page praised Danny Ward’s outstanding display in goal and said he had no concerns about Daniel James frustration’s upon being substituted a minute after Moore’s equaliser. Page insisted the Manchester United winger’s withdrawal was for the greater good. “I liked the fact he was angry,” Page said, after complimenting James on the work he had put in.
“If players are pleased to come off the pitch, that says they are not interested and don’t want to be on there. It is not about keeping individuals happy – at times you have to make difficult decisions. I get his frustration and I have no problem with that whatsoever. He’s a great lad and he cares. He wants to play for his country and he wants to play every minute. He gave us everything.”
The Switzerland manager, Vladimir Petkovic, said he had no regrets over substituting Xherdan Shaqiri after 66 minutes, at which point they led courtesy of Embolo’s header. “He showed a good performance but I also thought about the next matches where we need him and I wanted to create more stability in midfield,” Petkovic said.
“We became a little more passive but this is not only our fault because Wales had to risk more and they had to put in a stronger performance. Our opponents showed some excellent qualities.”
Switzerland now play Italy in Rome on Wednesday.