Joe Morrell urges Wales not to let unlikely point in Croatia ‘go to waste’

Joe Morrell has urged his Wales teammates not to allow their Euro 2024 qualifying draw in Croatia “go to waste” and to back up the point with a win against Latvia. Wales host the Baltic nation, 133rd in the Fifa rankings, in Cardiff on Tuesday after snatching a draw in the Group D opener on Saturday with a stoppage‑time strike by the debutant Nathan Broadhead, their sole shot on target.

Afterwards the Wales manager, Rob Page, insisted the result and spirited performance against a team who reached the World Cup semi‑finals in Qatar is proof that there is life after Gareth Bale, who retired in January. Morrell said Wales must use the surprise but welcome point in Split as a springboard in their quest to reach the finals in Germany next year. “It’s imperative we back it up now,” Morrell said.

“We know this means nothing if we don’t back it up on Tuesday or beyond that. One of the first things the manager said when he came in the changing room was: ‘Enjoy tonight but make sure we’re ready to go on Tuesday because it would be such a shame to let this go to waste.’”

During the previous World Cup qualifying campaign Wales struggled to break down Estonia, 110th in the world, and were forced to settle for a goalless draw in Cardiff. Morrell acknowledged Latvia could provide similarly awkward opposition. “We dropped points against Estonia at home and made it more difficult than we would have liked,” said Morrell, the Portsmouth midfielder. He said: “We’re not new to types of teams who want to come and sit behind the ball, similar to what we did in Croatia. We know Latvia will defend deep and give us a lot of the ball and it’s how we find solutions. The intention now is to be ruthless and relentless and keep our foot on the gas.”

Broadhead was part of a planned triple substitution on the hour in Croatia, with Wes Burns, his Ipswich teammate, and Sorba Thomas, on loan at Blackburn from Huddersfield. Croatia dominated possession and racked up 19 shots eight of which were on target, but for only the second time in their history they were denied victory in a home European qualifier after Broadhead poked in at the back post with 40 seconds of added time left to play. “Call the police there was a robbery last night,” Thomas said on Sunday in an Instagram post.

Page also handed the 18‑year‑old Birmingham midfielder Jordan James, capped by England at under‑20 level, his debut late on. Morrell said it is “pointless” for the new-look Wales to attempt to replace Bale, Wales men’s record goalscorer.

“You’re never going to replace Gareth Bale, it’s pointless trying,” Morrell said. “He’s been one of the best British players of all time. It’s about being different and being a complete team. We’ve lost a lot of experienced players but there were a lot of caps in that starting XI [v Croatia]. I don’t think there was anyone on the pitch with under 25 caps, so we’re still relatively young. I think that will stand us in good stead for the future.”

source: theguardian.com