Coleman ready to seize the moment


Published: Thursday 11th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Wales manager Chris Coleman says his players have embraced the moment Welsh football has been waiting a decade for.

There have been plenty of heartbreak stories down the years when the likes of Neville Southall, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs failed to grace the major tournament their talents deserved.

But not since a Euro 2004 play-off defeat to Russia have Wales been in the running to add another major finals to their solitary appearance at the 1958 World Cup.

Beating Belgium, the world’s second-placed team on the FIFA rankings, on Friday night is a tall order but victory would take Wales three points clear at the top of Group B and within touching distance of the European Championships in France next summer.

“This is what we have always wanted,” Coleman said ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier at the Cardiff City Stadium.

“The difference in this camp is the attention we have had and the interest from outside.

“It is huge, but we cannot complain because we have said for a long time we wanted to play in front of full houses against the best teams in the world – playing to do something special.

“Hopefully it gets bigger and bigger because with every result we get, the next game gets bigger. We are embracing it, and it is helping the squad grow and mature.

“The more times you are in those big games and you take care of the pressure, you get better for it.”

Belgium and Wales are both locked on 11 points at the halfway stage of the campaign with the Red Devils’ superior goal difference giving them top spot.

Marc Wilmots’ side are packed with household names, most of them plying their trade in the Barclays Premier League, but Wales held them at bay in a gutsy goalless draw in Brussels last November.

They also had chances to win that contest and the game plan will probably be similar, attempt to smother Belgium’s dangerous forwards while seeking to utilise the pace and power of Gareth Bale on the break.

Bale will win his 50th cap on Friday night, nine years after his first as a 16-year-old against Trinidad & Tobago, and Coleman believes the Real Madrid star continues to inspire his team-mates.

“It’s fitting that his 50th cap comes in a top-of-the-table clash,” Coleman said.

“No Wales player has ever got to 100 caps and three years ago when I came into the job there was the challenge – who is it going to be?

“It’s a number but it’s also proof that you’ve put out for your country, you had that passion and desire to turn up.

“Baley should be proud to get to 50 at his age and is a great example for our young players who haven’t hit the squad yet. He’s definitely a shining light there.”

Belgium’s build-up has been disrupted by the loss of Marouane Fellaini who withdrew from the squad on Wednesday after picking up a groin strain in training.

The Manchester United midfielder scored twice in Belgium’s 4-3 friendly victory over France on Sunday and has been in fine form for club and country with eight goals in his 13 last games.

But Coleman said he was not bothered by the absence of Fellaini’s power and aerial threat and he insisted Wales’ approach would stay the same.

“I never thought about (Fellaini) one way or the other,” Coleman said.

“He is a good player and Belgium are full of good players, we know that.

“But we have our own plans and they will not change because he is not in the team.

“We will do what we believe in and know what we want to do and whatever the opposition do i t will be about us and how we handle it.”

Published: Thursday 11th June 2015 by The News Editor

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