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Nations League: Weary Wales host Netherlands after World Cup qualification party

Jonny Williams (left) and Aaron Ramsey
Jonny Williams (left) and other fringe Wales players could face the Netherlands but the likes of Aaron Ramsey (right) are set to be rested
Nations League: Wales v Netherlands
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Wednesday, 8 June Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text online. Highlights on BBC One Wales from 23:05 BST and later on demand

Wales will hope to brush off their World Cup hangover when they host an in-form Netherlands in the Nations League on Wednesday.

Cardiff City Stadium was the scene of wild celebrations on Sunday as Wales beat Ukraine to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958.

Manager Robert Page is expected to make several changes after that physically and emotionally exhausting encounter.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, are aiming to extend a 10-match unbeaten run.

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has yet to suffer defeat in his third spell in charge of his national team, who started their Nations League campaign with an imperious 4-1 win in Belgium on Friday.

Having selected a shadow side for their opening 2-1 defeat in Poland last Wednesday to rest the first team for Ukraine, Wales are set to give their fringe players another opportunity against the Dutch.

“We want to win games so it’s about getting a balance,” said Wales manager Robert Page.

“We’re not in this competition to just make the numbers up and purely expose our younger players – we want to win games as well.

“Is it realistic to ask some of the senior players to go again in quick succession? Probably not. When you look at the importance of that [Ukraine] game and the emotion of it, that saps the life out of you.

“So we have to be respectful of that. I think you’ll see a blend.”

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This is Wales’ first campaign in the top flight of the Nations League and they made an encouraging start last week, as their second string impressed against a full-strength Poland.

The match against the Netherlands will be the third of five games in the space of 14 days for Wales, so Page will need to manage his squad’s workload with a home Nations League fixture against Belgium to come on Saturday.

Winning Sunday’s World Cup play-off final against Ukraine was always going to be Wales’ priority for this international window. Having accomplished that aim in thrilling fashion, Wales are using their Nations League matches as an opportunity to develop their players for the future.

“That night we celebrated with our families and I gave the lads that night to get it out of their system and enjoy it,” said Page.

“There are high demands when they’re in camp, it’s really intense and the camp is a long one this time – we’re away for a month – so they need that bit of downtime.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is that we’ve got to get that balance, and rightly so – they’ve got to enjoy moments like that, they’ve got to embrace it.

“Now the work head is back on. It’s work as usual again now and we’re up against a very good Dutch team.”

Netherlands players celebrate
Like Wales, the Netherlands will play at the World Cup in Qatar having missed out on qualification in 2018

This Netherlands squad a ‘present’ for Van Gaal

Netherlands will be without Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who played in the win over Belgium but has been given time off after a busy season for club and country.

Van Dijk’s absence means Stefan de Vrij is in line for a recall. With the likes of Gareth Bale, Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey likely to be rested, the Inter Milan defender could face players such as Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson and Fulham attacking midfielder Harry Wilson.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re up against, who’s playing, because we’re taking this game very seriously, to win and stay top of the group,” said De Vrij.

“It’s a big accomplishment for Wales to qualify for the World Cup. They have a lot of quality.”

Van Gaal revealed in April he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer, which he later said had been successful.

The 70-year-old did not tell his players during the March international window because he did not want to distract them and he is still keen avoid the spotlight.

“It’s not the moment to speak about my disease but I can assure you I can manage, because this group is a present for me,” said the former Ajax and Barcelona boss.

“In my career, I have never coached such a group.

“The result against Belgium was fantastic but we have to look forward and develop a team for the World Cup.”

Match facts

  • Wales have lost all eight of their previous matches against the Netherlands, most recently in a November 2015 friendly, losing 3-2 at Cardiff City Stadium.
  • Wales have conceded 24 goals in their eight games against the Netherlands. Of the teams they have faced at least five times, this is their highest goals conceded per game average against an opponent.
  • Wales are unbeaten in their last 19 home matches in all competitions (winning 13 and drawing six), their longest unbeaten run on home soil in their history. They have only conceded seven goals and never more than once in this run, keeping 12 clean sheets.
  • Memphis Depay has scored 20 goals in his last 17 appearances for the Netherlands, scoring two or more goals in a match on seven occasions in this run, including last Friday’s 4-1 win in Belgium.

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