Coleman: Wales are in driving seat

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Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Chris Coleman acknowledged Wales were in the driving seat to win Group B and qualify for the European Championships next summer after beating Belgium on an emotional night in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale marked his 50th cap with a 25th-minute winner – his 17th goal for his country – and Wales repelled Belgium’s stellar forward talent to hold on to a 1-0 victory which puts them three points clear at the top of the group standings with four games remaining.

Belgium came into the game ranked second in the world and favourites to win the group but Wales would virtually clinch their place at the Euro 2016 finals in France by beating Cyprus and Israel in their September double-header.

“I’m not getting carried away because we’ve got 12 points to play for,” Coleman said after one of Wales’ greatest-ever victories at the Cardiff City Stadium.

“But we have taken a big step forward and we can enjoy looking at the table because we are in the driving seat.

“We’ve taken four points off Belgium so it’s no fluke, and you’ve got to enjoy it when you beat a fantastic side like them.”

Coleman hailed the victory as “the biggest of my managerial career” and joined his players for their post-match celebrations on the pitch.

“We were going crazy at full-time,” he said. “We’ve come through the last campaign and gained a bit of strength through adversity.

“This campaign has been pressure on us for the right reasons and this was my biggest win.

“But I believe there is a bigger one coming and that will be the one that says we are going to France.”

Bale moved into sixth place in his own right on Wales’ all-time list of scorers, capitalising on Radja Nainggolan’s poor header to beat Thibaut Courtois just as he had done in Real Madrid’s 2014 Champions League triumph.

The 25-year-old was forced off in the closing moments as Wales held on heroically but Coleman said Bale’s talent deserved to shine at a major tournament.

“It would be a shame if he didn’t get there,” Coleman said.

“When you have won the Champions League and play for Real Madrid you want to experience that feeling with your country.

“I had to take him off because he had nothing left, but he is desperate to succeed. It means so much for him and it was the perfect way to mark 50 caps tonight with a goal.

“It was an ice-cool finish and someone of his talent deserves to be there at a major finals.”

Belgium’s defeat was only their second in 18 matches and first since the World Cup quarter-final loss to Argentina last summer.

Red Devils coach Marc Wilmots insisted they would recover from the setback and predicted Wales would lose matches during the run-in.

“I’m not worried by anything because there are a lot of games to play,” Wilmots said.

“I think Wales will lose games and I’m staying positive.

“We tried everything, but it was just one of those days when you give 100 per cent and it doesn’t happen.”

Asked whether several of his players had been affected by the uncertainty surrounding their club careers, Wilmots replied: “They are all professionals and I can’t believe it was a problem.

“If they need to change anything it is to perform in the next game.”

Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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