Rob Page has shared on ITV (broadcast on 21/11; 21:06) why he decided to take Leeds United loanee Daniel James off during Wales’ World Cup opener against USA on Monday.
Wales avoided defeat in their curtain-raiser with Gareth Bale scoring a late penalty. Timothy Weah had given the USMNT the lead during the first-half after some brilliant work from Christian Pulisic.
In truth, the US were considerably better before the break. So it was no surprise to see Wales make a change at the break. And it was James who was withdrawn.
Rob Page explains Daniel James substitution
The 25-year-old started up front. Unfortunately, as many Leeds fans know, James is rarely as impactful when playing as a striker. So it was little surprise that he was replaced by Keiffer Moore.
The change had a real impact on the Welsh side. Moore was certainly a handful for the American defence. And he came incredibly close to scoring, when he beat Matt Turner to a header from a corner.
Wales found it easier to put pressure on their opponents. And they got their rewards when Bale won a penalty which he then dispatched.
Following the game, the half-time change was earmarked as a crucial moment. But Page was keen to stress that he was not unhappy with James’ contribution.
“That was nothing against Daniel James at all,” he told ITV. “It just suited a Keiffer to get us up the pitch. We just couldn’t play over their press. We couldn’t get through so for us to make that little tweak and play over it into Keiffer to get us up the pitch, it did make a big difference.”
It is surprising that so many managers have persisted with using James up front. They are obviously seeing something that Leeds supporters have not.
Obviously, James boasts devastating pace. And Page perhaps felt that that would be crucial in stretching the game and leaving Bale and Aaron Ramsey with space to do serious damage.
Unfortunately, it would now be a surprise if James kept his place against Iran. Moore was a surprise absentee from the starting lineup. And James’ display did little to vindicate the decision.
It would be fantastic to see James silence his doubters during the tournament. But there is no doubt that he missed a great opportunity on Monday.