Wales to use Nations League to build for ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ at World Cup

Wales have two more games left before a first World Cup for 64 years

Phil Blanche
Tuesday 20 September 2022 16:47 BST
Chris Mepham wants Wales to finish their Nations League campaign with a flourish ahead of the World Cup in Qatar
Chris Mepham wants Wales to finish their Nations League campaign with a flourish ahead of the World Cup in Qatar

Chris Mepham says Wales are seeking to take momentum from their final two Nations League fixtures into the World Cup.

Wales play Belgium in Brussels on Thursday before wrapping up their Nations League campaign against Poland in Cardiff three days later.

While Wales, currently bottom of A4, are aiming to secure their place in the top tier of European football, defender Mepham admits the nation’s first World Cup for 64 years in November is looming large.

He said: “It can be difficult to give your full focus on these games when you’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime around the corner, but these games are really important to fine tune what we need to work on.

“These are our last preparation games for the World Cup and it’s important we take any sort of momentum from them to Qatar.

“Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves, get two decent results, and then there’s loads of confidence going into November and December.”

Wales are without injured quartet Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen against the world’s second ranked team.

But Wales have a good recent record against the Red Devils, winning two, losing two and drawing four of their eight games over the past decade.

The two sides last met in June when Brennan Johnson’s late equaliser gave Wales a 1-1 Nations League draw in Cardiff.

Mepham said: “We know they’re a good side and they have got some amazing footballers, people like Kevin de Bruyne. I played against him at Man City and he absolutely ran the show.

Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has proved a thorn in Wales’ side in the past (David Davies/PA)

“But we’ve showed in the past couple of games that we can go toe to toe with them.”

Mepham has linked up with the Wales camp having gone from bit-part Bournemouth player in the Sky Bet Championship last season to Premier League regular this term.

The 24-year-old was on the wrong end of a 9-0 thrashing at Liverpool last month, in which he scored an own goal, but Bournemouth are since unbeaten in three games.

He said: “I think that’s the mental roller-coaster of being a footballer. I wasn’t in the team loads last year, but I’ve worked hard in pre-season.

“I’ve put myself in a position where I’ve started every game and hopefully got a World Cup to look forward to.

“I just want to give a good account, hopefully play well and give Pagey (Robert Page, manager) a problem when it comes to picking the team.

“Everybody will be the same. Being on the plane is one thing, but actually playing out there is a completely different one. Hopefully I can do both.”

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