Soccer-Welsh players raise their game when wearing crest - Page


Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group A - Turkey v Wales - Baku Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan - June 16, 2021 Wales caretaker manager Robert Page reacts Pool via REUTERS/Tolga Bozoglu

BAKU (Reuters) - Wales' proud interim coach Robert Page said his high-performing players grow in stature when pulling on the national shirt after another stirring European Championship victory.

The Dragons went way beyond expectations to reach the semi-finals in their maiden appearance at the tournament in 2016, and Wednesday's fantastic 2-0 win over Turkey put them on the verge of qualification again for the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

"I wish I could take you into the changing room now and see them as a group," Page told reporters after the game in Baku which left Wales on four points after two games in Group A.

"What is it? Is it the crest on the chest that makes them raise their game? It must be," he added, reflecting on what galvanizes the Welsh. "It's powerful and everybody would walk on broken glass to get here into this squad."

With a population of only 3 million to choose from, the Welsh national team now boast the best win percentage in Euros history: five in eight games or 63%.

Page said that while inspirational captain Gareth Bale and midfielder Aaron Ramsey would grab the headlines, Wednesday's performance was down to the team.

Ramsey made up for two missed opportunities by bringing down Bale's fine pass over the defence to open the scoring before the captain, who missed a penalty, created the second late on for Connor Roberts.

"Aaron was exceptional. Gareth showed character after missing the penalty. Everybody wants to talk about the big names, but the other nine were outstanding," Page said.

Wales meet Italy next and Page will hope that Bale can deliver another masterclass.

"He wears the arm-band for a reason. Everybody in life and in football has setbacks and missing the penalty was a bitter blow for him," Page said.

"But he reacted in a positive way and if he hadn't seen the opportunity, then we wouldn't have got the second goal. Credit to him for that and showing character."

Page also had praise for his central defenders Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon.

"I thought the two centre backs were exceptional... One is playing Championship football, the other isn't playing domestic football in the Premier League," Page said.

"It's a big test for them to come in and play against good opposition... (they) were outstanding."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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