No injuries, no panic.
Wales may have slipped four points adrift of the Republic of Ireland in Group D but Chris Coleman cut a relaxed figure at the Aviva Stadium last night as he confirmed that he had full crew to work with for the first time since the quarter-final of Euro 2016.
The result that day? Wales 3-1 Belgium.
If there is a concern for the visitors it is in the shape of five players who are one more yellow card away from serving a suspension. Gareth Bale is one of them but Coleman won’t be sending anyone out with one eye on their trip to Belgrade in June.
This is the most important game of the group, he insisted last night, but only because it is the next one. Others have suggested that it is the most important, bar none, given a loss in Dublin and Russia in 2018 starts to slip over the horizon.
“We dropped points against Georgia and conceded in the last five minutes against Serbia but the performance was good,” said the Welsh gaffer. “We took a point in Austria and now that is deemed as not a good point.
“We know where we are and there is no panic from me or from us. There is a long way to go in this group. The Republic of Ireland know that also. This is the fifth game in 10.” This is not, he insisted, a ‘must-win’ scenario.
Coleman’s calm isn’t based on blind trust. Wales may have woken the world to their abilities in France last summer but the manager served a reminder last night that they have been achieving either side of the Euros. One loss in their last 16 qualifiers speaks for that.
Results aside, the 46-year old has had little to complain about in this campaign.
Wales have played well for spells while paying the price for losing focus at key moments but there was an acceptance that they possibly haven’t dealt well with the expectation that comes with their newfound success.
“It is different for all of us this time. We can hardly go under the radar anymore. We are deemed now as a scalp. ”
There were familiar plaudits for Ireland. A good collective. A ‘been there, done that’ manager in Martin O’Neill. There has also been a slightly puzzling focus on an Aviva atmosphere that Wales expect to be ‘hostile’ for some reason.
Whatever of that, Welsh ears have certainly picked up on a column written by Johnny Giles in which the former Ireland manager declared Gareth Bale to be short of world-class, while adding that Wales were distinctly average without him.
“Well, I must be a hell of a manager then,” said Coleman.
All in all, he didn’t bite much on the bait dangled before him. Not even when Roy Keane’s fairly innocuous quote about getting stuck into Bale was repackaged as some sort of declaration of war by a member of the visiting media.
“That’s whatever they want to do,” said Coleman who will step down from the role regardless of results at the end of this World Cup adventure. “Whatever Ireland have got planned for Gareth it won’t be anything new and that’s for sure.
“If you look at where he plays and the level of football he is playing, there is nothing that will come tomorrow that he won’t be ready for,” he added.
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