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    Wales boss Robert Page would rather not play South Korea friendly with focus on Euro 2024 qualifier

    ROBERT PAGE admits he would rather not play South Korea in a friendly tonight with his Wales job on the line.The under-fire Dragons boss has watched his failing side win just one of their last 12 internationals.
    Wales boss Robert Page only his eyes for Monday’s Euro 2024 qualifier in RigaCredit: AFP
    Aaron Ramsey has urged Wales fans to stick together despite horror run of formCredit: Reuters
    Page knows Wales must-win their Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia on Monday to keep their qualification dreams alive and ease the mounting pressure on him.
    Page, whose side have to play under Uefa rules, conceded: “We have to take the friendly.
    “I’d rather not play it, being completely honest with you. The most important game is Monday.
    “It’s all about the points and it would be foolish of me to risk playing the lads for 90, 95 or 100 minutes and jeopardise any chance we’ve got in Latvia.
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    “I’ve already got a plan in place, we’re having to manage players, what minutes they’ve played this season, who needs more minutes than others.
    “There will be plenty of substitutions made at half-time and some at the hour mark.
    “We’ll be trying to get those players off the pitch unscathed and getting them ready for Monday.”
    Wales captain Aaron Ramsey is set to be rested with Spurs’ new £47.5million forward Brennan Johnson likely to start on the bench.
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    Wales fans have slammed chief executive Noel Mooney for the ticket prices for the friendly.
    SunSport exclusively revealed just 7,000 tickets have been sold last week.
    And the 33,280-capacity Cardiff City Stadium could have its lowest attendance for a Wales match in four years.
    Despite the poor results and performances, Mooney and the FAW decided to charge £25 for adult tickets which also sparked the no-show.
    It is understood Irishman Mooney recently tried to increase ticket prices further for upcoming qualifying matches.
    But at a Cymru fans’ meeting rejected the proposal which has been delayed until 2024.
    And angry online Dragons supporters have vented their fury at Mooney, who has given his public support to Page amid fans calling for him to be sacked, for his ticket price policy.
    One said: “Mooney’s continued failure to actually make decisions beyond his empty hyperbole + the failure to sack Rob Page post World Cup, starting to become evident. We’re in free fall.”
    Another read: “Fans voting with their feet. Think again before you start raising ridiculous prices in future @NoelMooney13.”
    A third said: “£25 + booking fees for a friendly in the current circumstances @NoelMooney13 You’re having a laugh.”
    A fourth fan added: ” Reduce ticket prices @NoelMooney13. You’re alienating even the die hard Welsh fans. Ridiculous pricing.”
    Wales’ hardcore support would like to see more games played around the country in Swansea and Wrexham.
    The friendly next month against Gibraltar will be played at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.
    Skipper Ramsey said: “We know how important the fans are for us.
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    “They have been instrumental over the years and hopefully we can get behind each other to get over the line.”
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    World Cup stadium lies abandoned less than a year after tournament and is set to be rebuilt in different country

    STADIUM 974 lies disused under a year after hosting World Cup matches in Qatar.The ambitious new-build was heralded as Qatar’s “beacon of sustainability” ahead of last year’s tournament.
    Stadium 974 remained largely intact and disused as of last monthCredit: AFP
    The unusual build was assembled for last year’s World Cup in QatarCredit: Getty
    Stadium 974 hosted the stars of BrazilCredit: Getty
    Lionel Messi also graced Stadium 974Credit: AP
    It hosted seven matches during the finals, including winners Argentina’s 2-0 win over Poland.
    The last game played there was Brazil’s 4-1 round of 16 thumping of South Korea.
    Work quickly began on dismantling the stadium, which could be reassembled in another continent for more World Cup matches.
    As of last month, however, the largely intact remains of Stadium 974 could still be seen in its original spot in Doha.
    The ground was primarily built using 974 repurposed shipping containers.
    This number is significant, as 974 is Qatar’s dialling code.
    The mooted plan is to transport the shipping containers to Uruguay, where Stadium 974 could be reassembled.
    Uruguay want to host World Cup matches in 1930, 100 years after staging the inaugural tournament.
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    Work began on dismantling the stadium last DecemberCredit: GETTY
    Construction workers moved in soon after Brazil’s 4-1 win over South KoreaCredit: GETTY
    It is involved in a joint bid with Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.
    Stadium 974 could hold up to 44,089 fans during the World Cup in Qatar.
    Uruguay reportedly hope that the sustainability factor of reusing a stadium could help sway voters.
    Their bid is up against a joint effort from Spain, Morocco, Portugal and Ukraine.
    In addition to hosting the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar at last year’s World Cup, Stadium 974 also put on six matches at the 2021 Fifa Arab Cup.
    Among the six matches were Tunisia’s semi-final win over Egypt and the third place play-off between the Pharaohs and Qatar.
    Neymar and Co danced the night away at Stadium 974Credit: Getty
    Cristiano Ronaldo was in action against Ghana at Stadium 974Credit: Getty More

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    Louis van Gaal stuns journalists by claiming World Cup 2022 was RIGGED for Lionel Messi to win

    FORMER Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has sensationally claimed Lionel Messi’s World Cup triumph was “premeditated”.The ex-Manchester United manager, 72, took charge of the Dutch for the Qatar tournament last year.
    Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup last yearCredit: Getty
    Louis van Gaal has alleged Argentina’s win over his Netherlands side was ‘premeditated’Credit: EPA
    They made it through to the quarter-finals, but were then eliminated by Messi’s Argentina on penalties following a thrilling 2-2 draw.
    Wout Weghorst scored two late goals – including a dramatic equaliser – to send the game to extra time, before Emi Martinez saved from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis in the shootout to send Argentina through.
    Messi and Co went on to beat Croatia 3-0 in the last four and lifted the trophy following an epic win over France on spot kicks.
    Now Van Gaal, who resigned after the tournament and was replaced by Ronald Koeman, has reflected on Argentina’s triumph with some remarkable comments.
    Speaking to Dutch outlet NOS, he said: “I don’t really want to say much about it.
    “When you see how Argentina gets the goals and how we get the goals, and how some Argentina players overstepped the mark and were not punished, then I think it all premeditated game.”

    Asked to clarify his comments, he added: “I mean everything I say.
    “That Messi should become world champion? I think so, yes.”
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    Messi celebrated in the direction of Van Gaal after scoring against the NetherlandsCredit: Getty
    Messi netted Argentina’s second goal in the win over the Netherlands, before he celebrated by cupping his ears in the direction of Van Gaal.
    And the Barcelona legend confirmed after the game that this provocative reaction was in response to Van Gaal’s pre-game trash talk – as well as the conduct of substitute Weghorst.
    He said: “I don’t like people talking before games.
    “The number 19 (Weghorst) came and started to provoke us, bump into us, tell us things. Their coach was not respectful to us either.
    “It seemed disrespectful to me, that a coach of his calibre declared like that.
    “Van Gaal does not respect the Argentina national team.”
    Meanwhile, Van Gaal, who has prostate cancer, recently underwent another operation – nearly 18 months after confirming his diagnosis.
    Giving an update on his health, he added: “It’s still the same thing. I had another operation on August 9 and complications arose. I won’t bore you with what happened. But things are looking nice now.
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    “I have to rest until September 19. Then we will see whether the operation has achieved its goal.
    “I generally feel good. So it is not that I do not feel well, it is more that I am not fit and pant when I climb stairs. Two years ago that was not possible and now it is.” More

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    Wales set to have lowest home crowd in four years for friendly against South Korea

    WALES fans are set to deliver under-fire boss Robert Page a vote of no confidence with their lowest home crowd in FOUR years for Thursday’s friendly against South Korea.Page’s side have won just one of their 12 internationals – a 1-0 home win over Latvia in March – and lie in fourth spot of their Euro 2024 qualification group.
    Son Heung-min arrives in Cardiff fresh from his hat-trick for Tottenham in the 5-2 Premier League win at Burnley on SaturdayCredit: AFP
    Wales fans are unhappy with recent form after just one win in 12 internationalsCredit: Reuters
    The previous lowest crowd in recent times – Covid matches aside – was the sparse 7,666 attendance for a 1-0 friendly win over Belarus in September 2019 when Ryan Giggs was manager.
    SunSport understands a similar level of support is expected in Cardiff.
    Tottenham captain Son Heung-min leads South Korea for the friendly clash in the Welsh capital.
    The Football Association of Wales had only sold 7,000 tickets last week.
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    And that means the 33,280-capacity Cardiff City Stadium is likely to be less than a third full at best with empty seats across the ground.
    A section of Wales fans want Page to be sacked following a dismal set of results which included a humiliating 4-2 home qualifying loss to Armenia in front of a sell-out crowd in June.
    That was followed up by a 2-0 defeat in Group D leaders Turkey.
    They are already five points clear of the Welsh with Armenia and Croatia also above them in the race for Germany although they have played fewer games.
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    But, despite the horror run of form, Page, 48, has received the backing from FAW chief executive Noel Mooney.
    Wales must-win against bottom side Latvia when they travel to Riga next Monday if they want to keep their slim hopes of automatic qualification for next summer’s finals alive.
    Only the top two qualify from the group.
    However, Page’s men could be handed a route through the back door via the play-offs next year because of their previous Nations League success.
    But a failure to collect those all-important three points against the Latvians will only increase the mounting pressure on Page, who signed a four-year deal 12 months ago before the World Cup. More

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    Salt Bae reveals reason behind ‘pathetic’ pitch invasion after World Cup final and makes promise ahead of next event

    SALT BAE revealed his thinking behind his “pathetic” World Cup final pitch invasion.And he made a promise ahead of the 2026 tournament that will delight Lionel Messi and football fans alike.
    Salt Bae caused controversy as he made his way on to the pitch after the World Cup finalCredit: instagram
    The celebrity Turkish butcher – real name Nusret Gokce – rose to stardom with his £1,000 gold-plated steaks and signature salt-sprinkling move that has contributed to amassing 52million Instagram followers and a wealth of £60m.
    However, he sparked controversy in Qatar last December when he made his way on to the pitch of the Lusail Stadium following Argentina’s dramatic win against France.
    Salt Bae, 39, pestered Messi for a selfie, bit a winner’s medal, grabbed the iconic gold trophy from Argentina players, kissed it, did his famous gesture over it and lifted it above his head as if celebrating winning the World Cup.
    According to Fifa’s guidelines, only World Cup winners and heads of state are allowed to touch the trophy – with the world football governing body investigating how he was allowed to make his move.
    Now an “embarrassed” Gokce has explained his cringeworthy actions – and vowed never to repeat his mistake.
    Speaking to The Times, he said: “It was a combination of my love of Argentina and my excitement.
    “I love Argentina, I’ve lived there. I went to support them. Many of [the team] have come to the restaurant. I didn’t feel a stranger.
    “It was a special moment. I can’t do anything about the reason I was there, but I would never, ever step on the World Cup pitch again.
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    “There were two billion people watching the World Cup… how many people are speaking about me? Five billion. The whole world.
    “I didn’t go on the pitch with the purpose of advertising, I just felt like it. Then it was a bit of a surprise.
    “There were at least another 1,000 people on the pitch but when they show the video they make out it was just me.
    “I never, ever wanted to overshadow anything. I didn’t like the attention. I didn’t kick anyone, steal anything.”
    Salt Bae was subsequently banned from a number of sporting events in the US.
    However, the Turkish chef – dubbed a “pest” by Gary Lineker – turned up at the Champions League final this month in his homeland.
    Upon spotting him arriving at the ground, fans flocked to social media.
    One wrote: “Of course! He will be on the pitch lifting the cup with Pep and the boys.”
    Another added: “This guy is so embarrassing.”
    He grabbed the trophy and even bit a winner’s medalCredit: Instagram More

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    SunSport assesses where it has all gone wrong for the Dragons and Robert Page in Euro 2024 qualifiers

    WALES’ disastrous back-to-back Euro 2024 defeats have all but ended their hopes of automatic qualification for Germany.Successive June losses to Armenia (2-4) and Turkey (2-0) has left the dismal Dragons fourth in Group D with furious fans now calling for under-fire boss Robert Page to be sacked.
    Wales midfielder Joe Morrell was sent off in Monday’s 2-0 qualifying defeat to TurkeyCredit: Viaplay
    The Dragons lost twice this month, starting with the shambolic 4-2 defeat to Armenia in Cardiff last FridayCredit: Rex
    At the halfway stage of qualification, Wales are five points behind leaders Turkey with Armenia and Croatia also above them despite the World Cup semi-finalists playing two matches less.
    Here, SunSport’s Phil Cadden assesses where it has all gone wrong for Wales and Page…
    Wales had a positive start to this Euros campaign with four points in March but that only papered over widening cracks.
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    The Dragons have won just once – a 1-0 home victory over Latvia – in their last 12 matches.
    That Cardiff win was also their only clean sheet in this alarming slump.
    Since a 4-0 hammering to Denmark at Euro 2020 two summers ago, Wales have won just six of their subsequent 24, the other wins coming against Belarus twice, Estonia, Austria and Ukraine. 
    To Page’s credit, he took over in difficult circumstances following Ryan Giggs’ arrest in 2020 and guided Wales to last November’s World Cup – a first global appearance since 1958.
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    Another factor for some of the recent woeful run has been fixtures against superior opposition after being promoted to League A of the Nations League.
    But, in truth, results and performances have been on the slide for some time and without the retired superstar Gareth Bale and Joe Allen there are major concerns over the quality and strength in depth of the team.
    Page’s flops picked up just one point and scored once – a Bale penalty versus USA – in three group matches in Qatar.
    The 48-year-old made changes as Nick Davies and Eric Ramsay replaced Tony Strudwick and Kit Symons on the coaching staff while Aaron Ramsey replaced Bale as captain.
    But little has changed.
    The shambolic 4-2 defeat to Armenia exposed Welsh weaknesses of defensive vulnerability and being overrun in midfield. 
    In Wales’ success under Chris Coleman, Giggs and Page’s early tenure, they played with a five-man defence and were difficult to beat through graft and team spirit plus Bale’s brilliance. 
    Page’s side must be better defensively to compete with Europe’s elite, they lack leaders and the age-old issue of not enough players playing in the Premier League.
    While Brennan Johnson has impressed in the top-flight, he doesn’t have the X-factor all-time record goal scorer and cap-holder Bale had.
    Three red cards in Wales’ last six internationals points to ill-discipline. Wayne Hennessey was dismissed against Iran for a karate-kick on Mehdi Taremi.
    Kieffer Moore was red carded after he kicked out at Armenia goalkeeper Ognjen Chancharevich,
    And then Joe Morrell was sent off for an ugly studs-up challenge on Turkey’s Ferdi Kadioglu.
    All three red cards were naive and poor decision-making.
    Page is spinning the line Wales must win all of their four remaining matches – Latvia away, Croatia home, Armenia away, Turkey home, to secure a top-two finish.
    But that seems impossible based on their rank form. 
    The Dragons have not put four victories together since Giggs’ side in September 2020.
    Wales started that run with wins over Azerbaijan and Hungary in November 2019 to reach Euro 2020.
    Then success followed in the Nations League over Finland and Bulgaria 11 months later behind closed doors during Covid.
    Remarkably, Wales could still qualify for Germany via a play-off courtesy of their previous Nations League record.
    A home semi against Estonia next March is a possibility.
    However, Wales aren’t winning enough matches to generate confidence.
    The Football Association of Wales rewarded Page with a four-year deal last September after booking their World Cup place.
    But Dragons fans have had enough and hammered chief executive Noel Mooney with ‘Page Out’ posts in reply to his tweet from the stands in Samsun on Monday night.
    Coleman and Giggs also received criticism after poor results but former FAW chief Jonathan Ford stood firm.
    Now Mooney as well as the FAW board and council members have a big decision to make.
    Stick with Page or make a change ahead of the autumn?
    Ex-Wales defender Danny Gabbidon reckons Page should be given the chance to finish off the campaign.
    Coleman’s former-assistant Osian Roberts was asked after the Turkey defeat if he would consider a return should a vacancy arise and he said: “Who knows. In the future, you can never tell.”
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    SunSport understands the ex-Crystal Palace No2 plans to follow Patrick Vieira in his next managerial post, with Leeds keen on the France World Cup winner.
    Ex-Wales skipper Ashley Williams could also be a short-term option if the FAW axe Page. More

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    Aaron Ramsey drops transfer hint with ex-club Cardiff keen

    AARON RAMSEY has cast doubt over his future at Nice – with ex-club Cardiff circling.The Wales captain, 32, signed an initial one-year deal with the Ligue 1 side last summer.
    Former Arsenal and Juventus midfielder Ramsey is unsure of where he will play his club football next seasonCredit: Getty
    Ramsey will captain Wales in their Euro 2024 qualifier against Armenia on Friday nightCredit: Getty
    Ramsey is understood to have triggered another 12 months on his contract in France after playing more than 30 league games.
    But Ramsey, preparing for Friday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Armenia, said: “I’m not sure what my future is at the moment.
    “But the most important thing for me is to focus on these games. We will find out in a few weeks’ time when everything has settled down. My full focus is on Friday.”
    It is believed Ramsey is open to staying in France if he receives a long contract offer from Nice which would allow him to move his family to the Cote d’Azur.

    If that does not materialise then it could pave the way for Cardiff to snap up the ex-Arsenal and Juventus ace.
    Bluebirds chairman Mehmet Dalman told supporters to expect an “exciting” signing this summer which has raised hopes.
    Ramsey added: “There’s always rumours and things like that flying around, isn’t there?
    “There is always that bit of noise. Friday is all that is on my mind at the moment.”
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    His wife Colleen and their three children have remained in Wales since he moved from Juve to Rangers in January 2022.
    Ramsey said: “This season has been a success for me. I’ve played a lot of games, played good football and the only thing missing has been a few goals but that will come again.
    “The most challenging thing is being away from my family so that’s the situation I find myself in. But, other than that, there’s been a lot of positives so we will see.
    “Being away from my family and seeing my kids grow up and missing out on certain things, it’s always difficult. It’s difficult for anyone to go through I’d imagine. So whatever we do going forward we will be reunited and back together.”
    Ramsey has missed Nice’s last four games of the season with a calf injury.
    But Ramsey, speaking from Wales’ warm weather training camp in Portugal, says he is fit and available for the visit of Armenia followed by the trip to Turkey next Monday.
    Ramsey said: “I’m feeling good. I have missed a few games but previous to that I had a good run of games. I got myself into good shape. I’m raring to go. It’s a massive camp for us.”
    Alys Carlton has been appointed as the first female chair of the Football Association of Wales board, succeeding Steve Dalton. More

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    Premier League decide AGAINST using World Cup-style technology – but huge changes to VAR are confirmed

    PREMIER LEAGUE chiefs have decided against using World Cup-style offside technology next season.But extra VAR cameras WILL be brought in at every top flight ground – in a bid to stop two of the blunders that took place last term.
    Extra cameras will be used by VAR next season as the PGMOL seeks to prevent any “blind spots”Credit: Getty
    Fifa’s Semi-Automated Offside Technology used limb-tracking cameras to pinpoint the exact position of every player on the pitch, plus a chip in the ball to determine if it was played by a defender or attacker.
    The cameras were then deployed to provide a computer-generated 3D animation that was shown on stadium big screens and by broadcasters.
    Fifa’s system was a big success, as was Uefa’s use of SAOT – although European chiefs opted to use the version that did not include the chip in ball technology.
    It was expected that the Prem would seek to adopt the system for next season, which is the path that is being taken by La Liga in Spain.
    But instead the option to bring in SAOT for next term is NOT on the agenda for next week’s Annual Meeting of the 20 top flight clubs in Hampshire.
    Instead, an extra four offside cameras will be used at every game, with Prem bosses and PGMOL agreeing this should prevent a recurrence of two controversial incidents last term, both involving Liverpool.
    Arsenal’s early opener in the 3-2 win over the Merseysiders was allowed because the cameras did not pick up the position of Bukayo Saka when the ball was played forward to him wide on the Gunners’ right.
    Subsequent footage, not available at the time, suggested the England star had come back from an offside position but with no evidence to overturn the initial offside decision, the goal stood.
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    Liverpool, though, were the beneficiaries of the other incident, in their FA Cup tie at home to Wolves.
    Julen Lopetegui’s team thought they had scored a late winner through Toto Gomes.
    But the goal was ruled out by a late flag determining that Matheus Nunes retreated from an offside position after taking the initial corner.
    Once again, other images, not available to the VAR crew at Stockley Park, suggested the decision should have been overturned but with Nunes in the “blind spot” of the VAR cameras the goal did not count.
    ITV were using the “standard” five calibration cameras and 17 in total for the FA Cup tie, three cameras fewer than typically used in a Prem game.
    But the addition of four extra cameras, which is expected to go through on the nod when the club chiefs meet, is felt sufficient to ensure no repeats.
    League bosses believe they can wait to introduce any version of SAOT and that the evolution of technology will be so rapid in the coming weeks that introducing the system now would be premature as it would soon be rendered out of date. More