Chris Coleman has called on his Wales players to rediscover the same qualities that helped them to qualify for Euro 2016, in particular the need to be ruthless and horrible as they seek to get off to the best possible start in their opening group game against Slovakia.
After winning one of their past seven matches and losing 3-0 in Sweden last Sunday in their only preparation game for the finals in France, Coleman believes that the key to turning things around and progressing from a group that also includes England and Russia is to take inspiration from the past.
Slovakia, who like playing on the counterattack, promise to be awkward opponents. Jan Kozak’s side are unbeaten in eight matches, including a recent 3-1 away victory against Germany, and have lost three of their past 26 fixtures. Marek Hamsik, the gifted Napoli midfielder, has been targeted as the man to stop on an evening when Coleman is looking for his players to produce a gritty performance.
“We have got to remember what got us here and not think we have to be this pretty team and play lovely swashbuckling football as we are in a tournament and the eyes are on us,” the Wales manager, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Friday, said. “We have to get over any feeling of ‘the disease of me’; you have a bit of success and it is ‘all about me’.
“It is about what makes the team good and successful. We have won ugly at times. I can’t say that in the campaign we were brilliant with the ball in every game. We were ruthless and that got us success.
“We know that we have one or two players who can make things happen. But as a team our strength is knowing what we are good at and what we are not good at. Unless we are right at it, ruthless and horrible – that is what we improved from the first campaign to the second. We never improved our football, we improved our levels of concentration and focus, and we stuck to a gameplan and that was not always pretty.”
Coleman is expected to start with Joe Allen alongside Dave Edwards in midfield, with Joe Ledley, who broke his leg playing for Crystal Palace on 7 May, set to be among the substitutes. Sam Vokes is likely to get the nod ahead of Hal Robson‑Kanu in attack, with Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale playing just behind the lone striker.
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