Wales v Belgium: Chris Coleman’s men can take the Euro 2016 heat

By Jamie Thomas.

Wales boss Chris Coleman admits they are feeling the pressure – but insists he wouldn’t have it any other way ahead of next month’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Belgium.

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His men are currently second in Group B, trailing Marc Wilmots’s side only on goal difference at the halfway stage of the campaign, and are determined to maintain their undefeated run on 12 June at Cardiff City stadium.

But speaking as he named his squad for the top-of-the-table clash, Coleman revealed Wales are relishing the big games after keeping the likes of Chelsea star Eden Hazard, Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Kevin De Bruyne of Wolfsburg at bay in November’s 0-0 draw in Brussels.

Coleman said: “There’s a reason for us being in this position: we’ve played good teams before and held our own. If we want to reach what we want to achieve, then we’re going to have to live with the pressure. We’ve been crying out for it really, the attention; we want that pressure of being in the position where everyone’s saying this is the game we’ve got to win.

“It’s another opportunity for us to make sure that the games remaining are getting bigger and bigger, and that’s where we want to be. With that comes all the pressure, the excitement, the interest and so on, and we need to handle that.”

Defender James Collins and Ben Davies have been ruled out through injury, but Wales welcome back Hull’s James Chester, Paul Dummett of Newcastle and Celtic ace Adam Matthews – who all missed the 3-0 win over Israel in March.

Coleman knows it’s a blow to be missing key defenders who played an integral part against Eli Guttman’s side but believes their replacements show the strength in depth of the squad.

He added: “It’s a real positive to have these guys back, on the back of the Israel camp, which was a great performance that got us the three points. It’s nice to be able to bring back players of that calibre.

“It’s been difficult for Chester after relegation with Hull but, equally, he has a chance now to end his season on a high with us. Dummett has done really well when he’s been with us and Matthews has experience, so to have all three back is a huge positive.

“The formation in Israel was important. Ben and James were key to that performance, enabling us to play with a back three, so it is a blow to lose them.

“You don’t want to disrupt a winning team with injuries but in international football, it is inevitable. But we’ve been here before; it is rarely the same squad twice, so whilst we are obviously disappointed to lose both players, we just have to deal with it and get on with it.”

One player who is almost certain to start is Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, on what would be his 50th cap. And Coleman is now tipping the forward to join the 100 club with Swansea and Wales skipper Ashley Williams.

Coleman said: “It’s not just that he’s got 50 caps, it’s that on his way to earning most of them – his performances have been absolutely outstanding. He’s a credit to himself; you see his reaction in games when we’re doing well and it’s obvious how much it means to him – he’s got 50 now, he can easily get another 50.

“A lot of our players have got the capacity to reach the 100 mark; they’re good enough, they’re young enough and we really want as many of them as possible to reach that milestone. They have just got to keep on doing what they’ve been doing and they’ll get there.”

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It’s clear the Wales manager is confident about the future. Coleman handed Harry Wilson his first cap against Belgium two years ago, fuelling an expectation from fans to see more youngsters getting call-ups.

While West Brom and Wales youth prospect Tyler Roberts missed out on inclusion in the 23-man squad this time, Coleman revealed the 16-year-old rising star would be involved in their training preparations ahead of the crunch match.

Coleman added: “We’ve got three or four youngsters joining us in the first week so they can see what it’s all about. I like doing that to give some of the lads a taste of what could be around the corner for them if they work hard, and younger players always add a tempo to the training because of their enthusiasm.

“Ideally, they won’t be involved in the second week of preparations unless anything goes wrong but we need to look after these players and make sure they’re ready to step up. The next three or four years are huge for them. They haven’t made it yet so we need to help them as much as possible.”

Wales v Belgium kicks off at 19.45pm on 12 June, live on Sky Sports 5.

Wales squad: Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Fon Williams (Tranmere),Ward (Liverpool), Williams (Swansea – captain), Chester (Hull City), Gunter (Reading), Taylor (Swansea), Dummett (Newcastle), Matthews (Celtic), Richards (Swansea), Henley (Blackburn Rovers), Allen (Liverpool), Ledley (Crystal Palace), Ramsey (Arsenal), King (Leicester), Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), MacDonald (Bournemouth), Cotterill (Birmingham), Robson-Kanu (Reading), Lawrence (Leicester), Bale (Real Madrid), Church (Charlton Athletic), Vokes (Burnley).

Do you think Wales can beat Belgium this time? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more from Jamie Thomas here!

Follow @J_T_93

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