Coleman feeling confident

Published: Saturday 15th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Chris Coleman admits he has gone from being a nervous manager to a confident one as Wales have embarked on a journey which he hopes will end with qualification for the 2016 European Championships in France.

Two years ago Belgium provided the opposition as Coleman marked his first competitive game in charge of Wales.

It was to prove a sobering affair as James Collins was sent off within the first half-hour and Wales’ timid 2-0 defeat was symptomatic of a World Cup qualifying campaign which was over almost before it began.

Fast forward two years and Belgium stand in Coleman’s way again in Brussels on Sunday but, having taken seven points from their opening three Euro qualifiers and with fit-again midfield pair Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen restored to a side featuring Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, the Wales manager says it is a completely different ball game.

“I was nervous before that first Belgium game last time because we were going into the unknown,” Coleman said.

“I had played international football and managed in football but I had never managed in international football.

“I always get a bit nervous before games but I really was then. It was the first game, we had lost a couple of friendlies, we needed a positive result and I had not been in that situation before.

“But there’s a different feeling going into this game.”

It has been a roller-coaster two years for Coleman and, at times, it appeared as if the former Fulham and Real Sociedad manager would not survive the ride.

Serbia hit Wales for six in Novi Sad before cruising to a 3-0 return win in Cardiff and Coleman’s side were also beaten in Macedonia where the manager had arrived embarrassingly late after losing his passport.

But they finished the World Cup qualifiers well by beating Macedonia at home and drawing in Belgium with a hugely under-strength side and that was the springboard for an upturn in results as well as new-found confidence.

Wales have lost only one of their last eight games and Coleman insists they will not be overawed by a formidable Belgian side who can count on the likes of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke.

“We have got to go there, without being cocky, and be a bit bolshie because we have got a bit about us,” Coleman said.

“We cannot go there thinking it is okay just to compete and not get anything, because it is not.

“We need to qualify and to do that we need to get points. Belgium are another team in our group so we want points off them, home or away, it does not matter.

“The pressure was on in the last camp and we did well, we got four points and we’ve got to keep the momentum going.

“This time nobody expects anything from us, but I expect us to get something because we are no mugs ourselves.”

Coleman was in Brussels on Wednesday night for a spying mission on the group favourites and saw Belgium beat Iceland 3-1 in a friendly.

The Red Devils will once again be without injured captain Vincent Kompany and Coleman knows there will be attacking spaces for Bale to exploit on the break while trying to keep the door closed on Hazard and company.

“When they attack they really go for it. Both full-backs join in at a certain time and they create a load of chances but they leave gaps and are susceptible defensively,” Coleman said.

“It was really open and they like it like that, Hazard is a top player with little give and gos around the box and he can hurt you.

“They like to suck you over to one side and hit you on the other side, to get that numerical advantage in the middle of the park.

“What we can’t do is start panicking if they make a few chances. We need to stick on what we have worked on.

“There is no team on the planet that can’t be got at and we will make some chances.”

And Coleman says it will be fascinating to see how Belgium react should they fall behind in front of their own fans.

“A lot of teams are really easy on the eye if you let them bully you and they’re on top and confident,” Coleman said.

“When you give them a little shake and you can test them, sometimes they have a wobbler.

“If we get a foothold in the game we know with what we’ve got we can ask them some serious questions.

“It will be interesting to see how Belgium handle it if they are coming from behind.

“I don’t think they have had to do it too many times as they are used to dominating games because they are such a strong team.”

Published: Saturday 15th November 2014 by The News Editor

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