Slicker Wales can secure last 16 place – Coleman
An improved passing game can provide Gareth Bale with the platform to fire Wales into the last 16 of Euro 2016 against Russia, says coach Chris Coleman.
After opening their Group B campaign with an encouraging 2-1 win over Slovakia that saw Bale open his Euros account after 10 minutes, the Real Madrid forward’s second free-kick goal of the tournament couldn’t prevent a 2-1 defeat to rivals England.
“Out of possession, (Wales were) absolutely fantastic,” against England, Coleman said on Sunday.
“It’s just that we can be a bit better on the ball while in possession. I’m a bit disappointed with that.”
Coleman believes his side, competing in their first major finals since the 1958 World Cup, can keep their fans dreaming for some time yet.
Wales will book their place in the knockout phase with a win over Russia at Stadium de Toulouse, where even a draw could be enough to see the tournament debutants through.
Asked about the lack of opportunities earned by Bale against their old foes in Lens on Thursday, Coleman said: “I was more concerned that, when we were on the ball against England, we didn’t do what we were capable of doing.
“That was disappointing, but the game before that I thought we played some great football. I think it was just the England game that, in possession, we were out of sorts.
“That’s my only gripe with the guys. Offensively, the England game, we weren’t as good. And that’s not Bale. That was all of us.”
Wales, however, are in a “fantastic position”, according to Coleman and despite the risk of further fan violence in the wake of incidents between Russian and English supporters in Marseille, he remains optimistic.
“Look where we are, we’re in a fantastic position. We’re at our first major tournament, we’ve got the chance to progress. Our players have done unbelievably well,” he said.
“We know it’s a game they need to win, so we’re expecting a very tough game.”
Wales’ long wait for a major finals is due in part to Russia, as they were cruelly denied a place at Euro 2004 in controversial circumstances.
Russia’s Yegor Titov tested positive for banned substances after the first qualifying leg, a scoreless draw in Moscow, and UEFA took no action other than to tell Russia not to play him for the second leg, which Russia won 1-0 in Cardiff.
Coleman said that experience is now past history and has called on Wales to capitalise on their transformation from a June “bounce team” to what he believes is an emerging force.
“Heartbreaking,” he said when asked to comment on Wales’ past misses. “Hence the celebrations when we managed to qualify. But this is a different team, and it’s a different Russia team.
“This team is in the middle of a journey. This is our first taste of tournament football, and it’s amazing, it’s intense, it’s tough, and it’s a huge learning curve.
“Normally in June, we’re playing a friendly game, we’re a bounce team. Not any more.”