We’re on world stage now – Coleman


Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Chris Coleman believes Wales are now a world force after a Gareth Bale-inspired show rocked Belgium and confirmed their place among the European elite for next month’s World Cup draw in Russia.

Wales are within touching distance of ending their 58-year wait for a major tournament appearance after Bale’s winner saw off Euro 2016 qualifying rivals Belgium – ranked second in the world – at a delirious Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night.

The knock-on effects of that victory have proved considerable as Wales will now join Europe’s traditional super-powers in the top band of seeds for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw in St Petersburg.

Also, under FIFA’s complicated coefficient system to formalise the rankings, Wales are now set to enter the top 10 for the first time in their history, overtaking the likes of France, Italy and Spain and even possibly England if Roy Hodgson’s side slip up in their Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia on Sunday.

“We are now a player on the world stage,” Coleman said after Wales had extended their unbeaten run in competitive football to eight games to take a three-point lead at the top of their Euro 2016 section.

“We have to stop thinking of ourselves as little old Wales and we have done that.

“We think this is a campaign where we can do something special and we are up there on merit.

“It takes time to climb the rankings, especially when you consider we were 112th, and it has been a big turnaround from where we were.”

Asked about the possibility of usurping England as the best of British, Coleman replied: “I don’t think it has ever happened and it would be a nice bonus.

“We have chipped away at it over the last couple of years and we have to keep doing that because football changes quickly.

“We have achieved quite a bit and we should enjoy it, but we need to make sure we keep doing as we are to get where we want to get to.”

Bale’s heroics appear to be carrying Wales all the way to next summer’s European Championship finals in France.

His 17th goal for his country was his fifth in the current campaign and placed him sixth in his own right on Wales’ all-time list of goalscorers.

The 25-year-old spoke to his new Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez at the Wales team hotel before kick-off and Coleman welcomed the suggestion that the Spaniard sees the Welshman as a key player for him next season.

“I think Rafa’s been quoted as saying he will build his team around Baley, and why wouldn’t he?” Coleman said.

“He’s shown what he’s capable of with and without the ball and he worked extremely hard again.

“He was exhausted at the end – he had nothing. And there’s a desperation about Baley to do something that’s not been done for a long time – for us to take that last stride towards a major championship.

“I said to the lads before the game, ‘Make sure you come off empty. Do not leave anything on the pitch’.

“That’s what they gave. These players have had that tag of the ‘golden generation’ and they haven’t earned it yet, but they are on the way to doing so and I don’t think they will get it wrong.”

The one downside for Coleman on an emotional night was that it was probably the final game with assistant coach Kit Symons at his side.

Symons joined Coleman when he was appointed Wales manager in January 2012, but his role has becoming increasingly difficult since he was promoted from under-21 team coach at Fulham to first-team manager.

“We will have a chat but I think Kit will have to stop and concentrate on Fulham,” Coleman said.

“It will be a shame for him to go as he has done really well, but managing a club and working with your country is very difficult to do.

“He is probably very emotional as he has represented Wales for 25 years as a player and coach and I will miss him.

“I have got his replacement, but he is in work at a club and until he puts pen to paper we cannot make it official.”

Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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