Coleman expecting needle in showdown
CHRIS COLEMAN expects a ‘hell of a game’ when Ireland visit Cardiff for a World Cup qualifying showdown that Gareth Bale will watch from the stands.
Despite being out injured, the Real Madrid star wanted to support his Wales teammates on a night when winner takes all.
Coleman is aware the match will carry even greater needle after Seamus Coleman’s leg break in the reverse fixture, but insisted that incident in Dublin would not inhibit the Welsh approach on home turf.
Coleman said Neil Taylor’s mistimed tackle won’t be mentioned in his dressing-room, although the defender is likely to be cast as the villain by travelling Ireland fans.
Martin O’Neill’s side are also targeting passage to Russia next year and that dynamic alone is enough for Coleman to acknowledge the size of the match.
‘It is all or nothing for both teams,’ said Coleman. ‘So even without the unfortunate incident in Dublin with Tayls and Seamus, this was always going to be a game where there will be two teams locking horns.
‘There will be lots of contact in the game, it will be physical, good players there as well. I think there will be chances either end and there won’t be much in it.
‘After the game in Dublin, Tayls was absolutely devastated, as we all were. Seamus is such a good player and you never want to see that happen. But there won’t be any mention of the unfortunate incident, we’re just going to get on with our game-plan and make sure we’re 100 per cent focused on doing what we’re good at.’
Bale rejoined the Wales camp yesterday after the squad flew back from Tbilisi and he will remain in Cardiff to watch the game tomorrow.
‘Gareth, James Collins, and Jazz Richards will be there,’ said Coleman. ‘I never demanded them to come. That’s them saying: “We’re going to be there to make sure we support the boys.” And we’re going to need it. It’s going to be a hell of a game, the Republic will be ready for it, so we’re going to need all the help we can get.’
Victory in Georgia, courtesy of Tom Lawrence’s wonderful strike, boosted Welsh hopes for qualifying for Russia significantly. Beating Ireland will almost certainly guar- antee a play-off place, while it would also make Coleman’s side Group D winners should Serbia fail to defeat Georgia. A point may be enough for Wales to gain a play-off berth depending on results from elsewhere in Europe. Ireland could themselves still finish first or second but need to win and the delicate balance should ensure a fascinating encounter of ebb and flow.
Coleman is focused on one thing. ‘We can’t start looking at all the permutations: “What if Ireland attack us?” What we’ve got to do is say what we want to do from the outset, not worry about anyone else, stick with that, and pray the plan comes off.’
Even without Bale fit to play, it feels like Wales are on a roll. They have lost only one of the past 21 qualifying games and a third clean-sheet victory in a row in Georgia dispelled the notion they need Bale to win. As 17-year-old sensation Ben Woodburn had done before, Lawrence stepped up to magnificent effect in Tbilisi and Coleman has options should he need to make changes during the game.
There is belief Wales can win a fourth competitive game in succession for the first time in 38 years.
Lawrence’s confidence in taking creative responsibility against Georgia fuels that faith. The winger switched Leicester City for Derby County in a £7million move this summer to gain regular minutes and said that missing out on Euro 2016 through injury added to his determination to make an impact for Wales.
‘That injury has pushed me even more,’ said the 23-year-old. ‘It was heartbreaking to miss the Euros but it has given me the motivation to come on leaps and bounds.
‘I’m really happy this season, I got my move to Derby and I’ve settled in there really well.
‘I can’t wait for the Ireland game now, the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable. Having Ireland fighting for a place makes for a great game.
‘Our main aim has always been to focus on us, not what other people are doing in the group, and that’s the way we look at it.’
KEY: Players enjoy Tbilisi win; Coleman (inset) after Lawrence’s crucial goal