Rob Page and Gareth Bale insisted Wales should not be disappointed with World Cup elimination as the pair hailed the Dragons’ efforts despite a comfortable defeat to England.
Wales kept England at bay for large parts of the first half at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday but came unstuck after the interval as Marcus Rashford scored a brace and Phil Foden tapped home.
A 3-0 defeat ensured Wales end a major tournament without a win for the first time in their history, while England have defeated their rivals in seven straight games, scoring 14 and conceding just one in that run.
United States progressed as runners-up to England in Group B at the expense of Iran, though Page was not disheartened by Wales finishing bottom of the pool in Qatar.
“The effort we put in I thought was outstanding, we addressed at half-time we could have been better with the ball,” the Wales manager told the BBC.
“I won’t have a bad word said about those players, they have given everything. The first goal is a wonderful strike, the second I am a little disappointed with but I don’t want to talk about negatives.
“We are disappointed to leave the tournament but that is the way to go out, the first-half performance was excellent.”
Bale was forced off at half-time after managing just four passes and seven touches – both the fewest of any starter in Al Rayyan – as what could prove to be his final World Cup came to a frustrating end.
Harry Maguire with as many touches in the opposition penalty area in the first half vs Wales as Gareth Bale has made all tournament pic.twitter.com/DCYDL0VXoX
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) November 29, 2022
Page confirmed after the game that a hamstring issue Bale sustained in the first half was the problem as the former insisted Wales will now “build for the future”.
“Bale felt his hamstring just five minutes before the interval so he had to come off,” Page added. “Joe Allen, that was his first 90 mins for ages, Ben Davies had to come off with an injury as well.
“Ethan [Ampadu] had to go to right-back, so I couldn’t be more proud of the effort honestly – just to get here was a massive achievement.
“My message is don’t be disappointed, we have to build for the future and to get to the World Cup is an unbelievable achievement for that group of players.”
We have had to wait 64 years for this moment to tell the world who we are.
Our language. Our culture.
Our history. Ein Wal Goch.
— Wales (@Cymru) November 29, 2022
Bale, who scored his nation’s only goal in the Middle East with a penalty in the opening 1-1 draw with the USA, echoed Page’s sentiment as he reflected on a first World Cup appearance for Wales in 64 years.
“We have to look at what we have achieved to get here and how far we have come, of course, we’re frustrated to go out but football is not easy,” Bale told the BBC.
“We didn’t quite live up to our expectations this tournament but we will take massive experience from it. Going forward, we need to look at how far we have come.
“To be at a World Cup, two years ago if you had asked us that we would have pinched ourselves. It is disappointing to go out but we will walk out of the changing room with our heads held high.
“It just didn’t happen for us at this tournament, the past two tournaments we’ve had success but it doesn’t always happen – we can never have any regrets, though, we gave everything.”
On his future, Bale added: “I’ll keep going as long as I can and as long as I want to. It is a difficult moment but we go again, we have a qualification campaign starting in March.”
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