LEUVEN, Belgium (Reuters) - Wales can draw positives from defeats in their opening World Cup qualifier in Belgium after going “toe to toe” with FIFA’s top ranked team, said acting coach Robert Page.
The Welsh, looking to qualify for a first World Cup since 1958, started brightly with a 10th minute goal from Harry Wilson but were eventually overrun and beaten 3-1 in their group clash at Den Dreef.
"We knew coming into it they're number one in the world for a reason. They can score goals but we knew we could hurt them, we’ve got pace and quality as well, and score goals as well,” said Page, who is standing in for Ryan Giggs at the helm of Wales team.
"I thought the goal we scored was fantastic and we got off to the perfect start. But if you give quality teams like this half a chance, inevitably the ball ends up in the back of the net.”
Belgium fought back with goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard and a second half penalty concerted by Romelu Lukaku.
"We addressed a few things at half-time from a tactical point of view and I thought we were better for it and went toe to toe with the world's number one team. So there are a lot of positives and we’ll bounce back from it," he said.
Wales are likely to field a second string side for Saturday’s friendly against Mexico in Cardiff and then be back to full strength for a key qualifier against the Czech Republic at home on Tuesday.
The Czechs opened their campaign with a 6-2 win away at Estonia on Wednesday.
“It’s early on in the qualifiers but it’s another tough game for us,” added Page.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Kim Coghill)