Chris Coleman: Euro 2016 run is only the beginning for Wales

Chris Coleman: Euro 2016 run is only the beginning for Wales

Chris Coleman believes Wales' Euro 2016 adventure is only the start of the journey, and not the end.

Wales' remarkable run to the last four of the Euros sees them take on Portugal on Wednesday night for a place in the final.

But manager Coleman has predicted an even brighter future for Gareth Bale and company with Wales starting their World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

There is also the prospect of Wales competing in next summer's Confederations Cup in Russia, their participation in which would be confirmed by them overcoming Portugal and world champions Germany beating France in the other semi-final.

"People think the end of this tournament is the end of this journey, but it's not," said Coleman.

"It's part of the journey. The experience this group of boys will get from this. They'll be here long after I am. This success is part of the learning process.

"We're here to compete and learn, and let's see if our best is enough to compete against the best."

Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the build-up to the semi-final showdown in Lyon.

Given Real's Champions League triumph, some observers are seeing this game as a straight shoot-out to decide this year's Ballon D'Or award.

No-one can dispute Ronaldo's phenomenal goal-scoring ability - as well as nearly 500 goals at club level he has scored a record 60 times for Portugal in 131 appearances - but Bale is recognised as the greater team player.

"You can't manufacture or pretend....you're either a team player or you're not," said Coleman.

"You're either comfortable being in a team environment with people putting themselves out there knowing they're not guaranteed anything even if they do their best, but want to do it for their country, or you're not.

"Baleo is exactly like that, like all the lads. But it's not just this tournament.

"We had a whole campaign to get through to get here where they were exactly the same. Where we find ourselves now, it hasn't happened overnight. The players, the bonds they have together, that togetherness."

Portugal have managed to make the last four despite failing to win one game in 90 minutes, while Wales have won four of their five matches.

"I felt if we got it right we could get out of the group," said Coleman.

"After that you never know who you'll get in the last 16, and then the quarter-final. I told the players that I genuinely believed we'd arrive at that stage.

"I didn't know what would happen after that, if I'm honest. But we've got a good team."

Pepe remains a doubt for Portugal after head coach Fernando Santos kept his counsel.

Questions over the 33-year-old's fitness were raised after missing Sunday's training session with a thigh complaint.

A precautionary measure it may have been but Pepe did not take a full part in training on the eve of the match, instead doing separate work at their Marcoussis base before travelling to Lyon.

Being without the Real Madrid centre-back against Wales would be a huge blow for Portugal and coach Santos was coy when asked about his fitness.

"As for Pepe, you'll probably be tossing and turning in your beds tonight because I'm not going to answer," he said with a smile.

"I'll be sleeping quietly because I have other players who can play. This situation is not new for us, it happened in our first match with (Ricardo) Quaresma.

"Sometimes players recover and are fully fit to play and other times they're not and others are called up.

"If Pepe is 100 per cent, I will think about it and he can start the game. If not, no problem. All the players must be 100 per cent fit for such an important game."

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