Wales manager Rob Page praised Gareth Bale’s “wisdom” and “intelligence” after he helped the team secure a 1-1 draw against USA in their World Cup opener.
Wales, competing at their first World Cup since 1958, were outplayed for most of the first half and fell behind to Timothy Weah’s finish.
But Bale won and converted a penalty in the 82nd minute to ensure the game finished level.
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The result could prove significant with England and Iran also in Group B.
“We’ve evolved Gareth’s position,” said Page.
“He can still play wide, but I like to give him the freedom to come inside and play off a front man. He’s good at finding those spaces. He’s a wise head. He used all of his wisdom in winning the penalty. He’s intelligent, he puts himself in those positions in the box, defenders commit themselves and, if they don’t get the timing right, it can be a foul.
“He looks after himself, too. He manages himself. He manages himself through games. If he’d have gone full-tilt from the first whistle, he probably wouldn’t have lasted until half-time. But he’s very experienced and clever at managing his body.”
Page also admitted he made a mistake not starting the game with striker Kieffer Moore.
The Bournemouth forward was brought on at half-time to replace Dan James and gave Wales extra threat up front.
“I take responsibility for that,” Page said.
“Nothing against DJ at all. I thought the way the USA played in the past meant we could play through the middle and play beyond their front three.
“We didn’t get any of the players on the ball and we were getting wave after wave of their attacks. Kieffer made a massive difference for us.
“Lessons have been learned from today. It was important we didn’t lose the game. We have Brennan Johnson who came on and made the impact, as well as Kieffer. We have strength in depth and more options on the bench.”
Wales are next in action against Iran on Friday.
England scored six past Iran in their opener and Wales will be looking to get their first win on the board.
Page thinks Wales are still outsiders to qualify for the last 16.
“Look at the pool of players England have got, it was a big ask for Iran to get anything out of the game.
“England are favourites, USA are second favourites. But there will be a few surprises along the way.
“We’re just planning for a tough game on Friday and that takes us into the last game against England.”
Bale, who was named man of the match, said: “The goal was exactly what we needed. It didn’t matter who scored it and it gave us a foothold to try and go and win it.
“I felt that we played very well in the second half. It was great to get the goal but the most important thing was that the team scored.”
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