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Wales v South Korea: Match Day Preview

In Rob Page’s fantasy world he would presumably have his feet up on Thursday night, watching Emmerdale or Sort Your Life Out with Stacey Solomon.

But in the real world of UEFA rules and football finance, Wales are playing a friendly at home to South Korea and Page, as the home team’s manager will be on the touchline.

The man who took Wales to their first World Cup finals for 64 years admitted in the build-up to this game in Cardiff he could done without this fixture.

What he meant – in a rather clumsy way – is that his main focus is Monday’s European Championship qualifier away in Latvia.

But countries are obliged to play two matches in these international breaks, so Wales will get some match time into their legs when they host the Koreans and their superstar captain, Son Hueng-min.

So, it’s a difficult match to call when the home manager insists he would rather not bother. Especially, when he has also suggested he will play a mostly second string against opponents who beat Portugal in last year’s World Cup, but then lost 4-1 to Brazil in the round of 16.

Page is expected to field a shadow side just four days before the Riga showdown with Latvia, and he has also confirmed that skipper Aaron Ramsey will be rested.

So, what about Tottenham’s new £47.5million forward Brennan Johnson, you say. Well, he will be on the bench.

“We have to take the friendly. I’d rather not play it, being completely honest with you,” Page said at his pre-match press conference.

“We’ve had a couple of injuries anyway. The most important game for me is Monday and we’re having to manage players.

“I’ve already got a plan in place, what players, what minutes they’ve played this season, who needs more minutes than others.

“There will be plenty of substitutions. There will be some at half-time, some at the hour mark. We’ll be trying to get those players off the pitch unscathed and getting them ready for Monday.”

Page is under growing pressure – the needle on the gauge heading towards the red because of results. He has managed just one win in his last 12 matches.

The only way he can ease that pressure is by winning, the Law No.1 of professional football.

Wales have picked up four points from four Euro 2024 qualifiers and are seeking to recover from back-to-back June defeats to Armenia and Turkey.

Qualifying for the tournament in Germany next summer through the play-offs now appears Wales’ best option.

“Everybody in that changing room understands the difficulties involved,” Page said.

“It’s not just about winning games of football now, it’s about the bigger picture. Everybody wants to win games of football but they understand, the senior players, that we have to start introducing younger players.

“It’s nice to hear their backing (of the senior players). It means a lot, the world to me.”

Joe Morrell and Kieffer Moore are suspended for the Latvia qualifier and set to start against South Korea.

The pair became the latest Wales players to be sent off in June after Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson were red carded at Euro 2020 and Wayne Hennessey was shown his marching orders at the 2022 World Cup.

Page said: “If we are going to compete at this level we need 11 players on the pitch. Both players regret the red cards. They were both disappointing. Kieffer’s red was a bit more disappointing because he rose to the bait.

“They knew what they were doing and they are the masters of the dark arts at that level, and we fell for it. We are better than that and it will be addressed.”

But at least Page won’t be the only manager under pressure at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Just along the touchline, German legend Jurgen Klinsmann needs a ‘W’, too. He’s only been in the job six months but draws against Colombia and El Salvador, and defeats at the hands of Uruguay and Peru, have raised early questions about him.

The Korean media are not impressed with Klinsmann’s management style, either, which includes basing himself in Los Angeles, rather than Seoul.

“You’ve got to live with criticism every day, probably 80% of your paycheck is that everybody’s allowed to tell you what to do,” said the former boss of the USA national team.

“But it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a wonderful experience so far.”

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