Wales focused on World Cup job at hand against Ukraine

Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Wales manager Rob Page said it was “business as usual” despite facing war-torn Ukraine as they aim to reach a first World Cup since 1958 in Sunday’s play-off final.

Ukraine beat Scotland 3-1 on Wednesday in their first competitive match since Russia’s invasion in February.

However, Page stressed that his side cannot be distracted by the visitors’ suffering off the field with a historic chance to end a 64-year wait to reach the World Cup.

“The message pre-camp was if we could take away what they are going through in a heartbeat we would, but now this is business,” said Page at his pre-match press conference on Saturday.

“This is an opportunity for us as Wales to qualify for a World Cup and that’s what the focus is on.

“It is business as usual. We are sympathetic absolutely, it’s appalling, but we’ve got a job to do and we are fully focused on it.”

Gareth Bale was again his country’s hero with two goals when Wales beat Austria 2-1 in March to secure a place in the final.

The 32-year-old pulled out of pre-match media duties on Saturday, but Page confirmed there is no late injury scare for the man who won his fifth Champions League title with Real Madrid last weekend.

Bale and Aaron Ramsey were the heroes of Wales’ incredible run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, but they may not get another chance to reach a World Cup if they do not see off Ukraine.

“He’s Gareth Bale, he’s played in more big games than all of us put together probably,” said Wales defender Connor Roberts. 

“I’ll be looking to him to drag this country to a World Cup like he has done many times for us. I’ll be as happy as anyone if he does it again tomorrow.”

Page’s squad has a clean bill of health after he could enjoy the luxury of resting his key players for Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Poland in the Nations League.