Chris Coleman has challenged Wales’ ‘Golden Generation’ to make more history in their pursuit of World Cup glory.
Second-placed Wales can still win Group D — and automatic qualification to next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia — if they overcome the Republic of Ireland and leaders Serbia fail to beat Georgia at home on the same evening.
But it is more likely that Wales and Ireland will be contesting second spot and the right to feature in next month’s play-offs.
It is an opportunity Wales manager Coleman does not intend to spurn as players who have long been labelled the ‘Golden Generation’ attempt to follow reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 by securing the nation’s first appearance at a World Cup for 60 years.
“The players have proven this is a golden era,” Coleman said at his press conference ahead of the Cardiff clash.
“They were labelled the golden bunch of players before we qualified for the Euros.
“I fought against that because they hadn’t earned that tag, but they’ve earned that now. This group of players have made the difference.
“They’ve gone one step further than anyone else that has gone before them, but that’s in the past as well.
“Whatever we’ve done, we’ve done and it won’t help us on Monday. We can’t be thinking that we’ve done really well, it’s gone.
“But if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, that will give us a great chance of having a good night on Monday.”
Welsh fans have called on Coleman’s squad to rekindle the so-called ‘Spirit of ‘58’ ahead of their final group game.
The 1958 tournament in Sweden was the only previous time that Wales have reached the World Cup finals, making it all the way to the quarter-finals before losing 1-0 to Brazil.
Coleman said: “1958 is nothing to do with this squad of players. You can look back and say, ‘We’ve never done this or never done that’.
“But it’s not these players, they weren’t involved in that.
“They haven’t been involved in every squad for the last 50 or 60 years.
“What they are doing is showing that this is their time and doing the best they can for the nation.
“They are doing a great job of that and will concentrate on affecting what is now, not what happened in the past.”
Wales will once again be without the injured Gareth Bale, who watched his team-mates train at the Cardiff City Stadium yesterday.
And Coleman dismissed fears of a grudge match after what happened when the two sides met in Dublin last March.
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman had his leg broken by a challenge from Wales defender Neil Taylor in the goalless draw and has not played football since.
“What happened to Seamus was unfortunate, but I don’t think it will have a bearing on this game,” Coleman said.
“It will very be similar to the game in Dublin where two sets of committed players were locking horns. There will be lots of contact, our players know that, theirs do.
“It’s as big as anything we’ve been involved in, but the good thing is we’ve been here before.
“We have to try and contain our excitement because we’ve always wanted to be in these games where everything is on it. But there’s nothing to fear and worry about the occasion. Absolutely nothing.”
Meanwhile, Chris Gunter says Wales are not distracted by the complicated permutations which could determine their World Cup fate.
“We haven’t been sat with pen and paper, but we’re aware of scores elsewhere,” the Wales defender said.
“But as players, if we don’t take care of our own business, then it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere anyway.
“All we can do is prepare for the game, do our work, and come the final whistle of course we will check what’s happened.
“I know what fans are like — my mates are the same but it’s about what we do.
“We have to focus on ourselves and not get distracted by anyone else.”
Wales go into the final qualifier on the back of successive wins against Austria, Moldova, and Georgia.
The Georgia win was on Friday secured by Tom Lawrence’s superb second-half strike and another victory would represent Wales’ best run for 36 years.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum about us and we’re in a good place,” Gunter said.
“We’ve won the last three, three clean sheets and we’ve proven before when we’re in that frame of mind we’re a tough nation to stop.”
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