Rob Page and Wales rally around Daniel James after penalty miss in ‘horrible’ defeat to Poland | Football

Daniel James’ decisive spot-kick was denied by Poland ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny (Picture: Getty)

Wales manager Rob Page said the team would be rallying around Daniel James after the winger missed the decisive spot-kick in the side’s crushing penalty shootout defeat to Poland.

After thrashing Finland 4-1 in a one-sided semi-final, Wales entered Tuesday’s playoff final for Euro 2024 brimming with confidence and had home advantage at a noisy Cardiff City Stadium.

But the two teams could not be separated after normal and extra-time and second-half substitute James was denied from 12 yards by Wojciech Szczesny after nine perfect strikes in the Welsh capital.

The loss ensured Wales missed out on their third successive European Championships, while Poland booked their spot at the tournament for a fifth time on the bounce.

Speaking to S4C shortly after the shootout, Page praised his players and threw his support behind James for stepping up and having the ‘bravery’ to take a penalty.

‘It’s a cruel game and that’s what I just said to the players. One kick away from qualifying and it hurts,’ a visibly emotional Page said.

‘I thought we were the better team. My message to the players at half-time was: “We are the better team, we’ll go on to win this game”.

Szczesny

Szczesny was the hero for Poland is a nerve-shredding penalty shootout (Picture: Getty)

‘We made a couple of changes, we brought [David] Brooksy on and we had to take him back off. He’s not trained for two days since last Thursday, he’s had an illness, but we needed fresh legs on again.

‘I’ve just to the group, “Look how far we’ve come that we’re that disappointed that we haven’t qualified for a major tournament”. There’s something good happening with this group, absolutely.

‘Ben [Davies] just said it on the pitch, I’ve just said it in the changing room: we’ll rally around Dan [James], he had the bravery to take that penalty and I am just so, so proud of that group.’

Wales missed out on a place at this summer’s tournament in heartbreaking fashion (Picture: Getty)

Page is confident his young Welsh team will come away from the ‘horrible’ defeat ‘bigger and stronger’ as a result of the experience.

‘The nation should be proud of them because they’ve put in a shift, and some, tonight to try to get us there,’ he added.

‘We’re disappointed but we’ll be bigger and stronger from having gone through this horrible, horrible experience.’

Asked what message he had for Wales fans in the aftermath of the defeat, Page replied: ‘I’ve just said to the group that we’re going somewhere. This team is going somewhere.

‘They’re so disappointed that they’ve not qualified, they’re hungry for it and we were nearly there tonight.

‘We were one kick away from qualified so there’s a lot more to come and a lot of good times ahead.’

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