Wales boss Coleman driven by World Cup ‘desperation’

Daniel Sturridge goal

Daniel Sturridge’s last minute winner for England against Wales at Euro 2016 has not been forgotten, Wales manager Chris Coleman says

It is considered a virtue in football not to look back – players and managers are often reluctant to reflect on achievements or to dwell on the past.

Sometimes, however, it is essential.

Chris Coleman says he and his Wales side will be driven by “desperation” when they face the Republic of Ireland on Friday – a desperation to succeed but, more specifically, a desperation to repeat the success of their recent past.

Absent from major tournaments for 58 years, qualifying for Euro 2016 – and then reaching the semi-finals – gave Wales a taste of what they had craved for generations.

And as they prepare for Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Dublin with their hopes of getting to next year’s competition in Russia in the balance, it is a taste they are desperate to sample again.

For Coleman, that feeling is particularly acute, as he has said this will be his final campaign in charge.

He cannot bare to think about a future when he will no longer lead his country and, for him to step aside satisfied with his legacy, he must replicate the sensation he felt in France last summer.

“I do think about Russia. Just because we went to France, it doesn’t mean Russia is less important,” he said.

“If you see the film [Don’t Take Me Home, the Wales Euro 2016 documentary], it gives you a taste for it again. You want to be back in that environment so I’m desperate to do it again. Desperate. It’s the only word I can use.

“I’m desperate to go back, be in the middle of that type of pressure. I can’t describe to you how that felt. I absolutely want that again. I do. That’s all I think about.”

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Coleman and his players have openly admitted how difficult they found the aftermath of Euro 2016, plunged into an emotional comedown after the searing highs of France.

They re-watched goals and games, text messaged each other occasionally – all to try and reproduce the magic of that summer.

That is the aim of this World Cup qualifying campaign but, with four points separating Group D leaders Ireland and third-placed Wales, Coleman’s men travel to Dublin in need of victory.

Coleman has previously said he would consider his position if Wales were out of contention after five games.

With four matches gone, however, he is putting that discussion to one side.

“I think until it’s mathematically impossible, I’ll always, and we’ve always, got to look at it and go: ‘We’ve got a chance’,” the 46-year-old adds.

“So unless we can’t finish top and we can’t finish second, if that happens, then I’ll see how I feel and Wales will see how they feel, I imagine, because it is my last campaign.”

A stiff drink

Wales’ match against the Republic of Ireland has the ingredients of a titanic battle – a big and noisy crowd, two teams familiar with each other from countless Premier League skirmishes, and the significance of precious qualifying points to play for.

There are echoes of Wales’ Euro 2016 group meeting with England – their only defeat in France before losing to Portugal in the semi-finals – and Coleman hopes his team will have learned from their mistakes in Lens.

“We went 1-0 up and then we wished our life away, rather than just enjoying those moments,” he explains.

“It’s the same for the Republic of Ireland – 50,000 people in the Aviva Stadium, they’re top, everyone is billing it as a must-win game for us. But the game will come and go. It only lasts 90 minutes.

“The build-up beforehand goes on a lot longer than the game itself. I think you forget sometimes when you’re in it that you’ve got to enjoy it, the players have got to enjoy it on the pitch, and they’ll do that if they do what they’re good at.

“We can’t miss the game – we did that I think against England. We were disappointed after the England game because it was a British derby and there was so much surrounding it, and we got sucked into that.”

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Coleman admits he was crestfallen after the England game, so much so, he broke one of his own rules.

“It was a dry camp, we were together seven weeks. No alcohol – staff or players. But I had a double whiskey by myself, a sneaky one out on the balcony,” he confides.

“As a manager you have to look at yourself and I thought I was preaching all the time, don’t get sucked into this game to England.

“So I was devastated, not because it was England, but we are at a tournament, it is the second game, we had a point in the bag and with four points we were going through really. But we let it slip.

“I was absolutely gutted.”

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Coleman hopes it will be a different story this time.

“It’s all about us, not worrying about ifs and buts and what happens if we don’t do this,” he says.

“It’s all about preparation, sticking to our game plan – if the players stick to that and we lose it’s my fault. Nine times out of 10 our boys have produced.

“We’ve just got to go into this game not worrying about the outcome. Enjoy it. Meet it. Let’s have a right go. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

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