Football: Wales can rise to occasion: Coleman

Wales manager Chris Coleman during the press conference on Oct 8, 2017.
Wales manager Chris Coleman during the press conference on Oct 8, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Euro 2016 semi-finalists and Ireland lock horns in a winner-takes-all battle in Cardiff

LONDON • Chris Coleman insisted Wales will embrace the pressure of today's knife-edge World Cup qualification shoot-out against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.

Victory for either team will guarantee them a play-off berth at their opponents' expense and could even yield an automatic qualifying spot if Group D leaders Serbia falter in their last game with Georgia.

For Wales, a draw at the Cardiff City Stadium would be enough to finish above Ireland in the table, but Coleman says his players will be thinking only of victory.

"We're on dangerous ground if we go in with a game plan of trying to soak the pressure up for 90 minutes," said the Wales manager, who will be without the injured Gareth Bale. "We are too good to do that. We'll go and attack, go and score goals. We have to do that - it's our strength.

"A point may be okay, but we'll go for three points. That's the way it's set up. I think it will be a sensational atmosphere and these are the games you want to be involved in... We welcome the pressure."

Celtic cousins separated by the Irish Sea, Wales and Ireland are more accustomed to facing off on the rugby pitch and have never previously tackled each other in a football match of such significance.

  • Sept '13

  • Wales' last home defeat in a competitive game.

Surprise semi-finalists at Euro 2016, Wales have not played at a World Cup Finals since 1958 and could finish a qualifying campaign unbeaten for the first time in their history.

After successive appearances at the European Championship, Martin O'Neill's Ireland are attempting to reach a first World Cup since 2002.

Ranked 34th in the world by Fifa, they trail Wales by 21 places, but have not lost against them in seven encounters, stretching back to a 1-0 defeat in a friendly in Dublin in February 1992.

O'Neill will welcome back wingers Robbie Brady and James McClean after the pair missed Friday's 2-0 win over Moldova through suspension.

While Wales are without Bale, O'Neill believes the absence of right-back Seamus Coleman - who suffered a double leg break against Wales in March's 0-0 draw in Dubin after a reckless challenge from Neil Taylor - is "as big a loss to us".

Wales coach Coleman expects a physical game, but is adamant that the bitter fallout from that draw will not affect his side's approach.

"It's the last game of the campaign, all or nothing for both teams," he said.

"So even without the unfortunate incident in Dublin with (Neil Taylor) 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, with good players there as well...

"It's going to be a hell of a game."

Wales have not lost at home in a competitive international since a 3-0 defeat by Serbia in September 2013, but O'Neill believes his side have the beating of them.

"I think we can win the match," he said. "If you had said to me right at the beginning when the group was drawn that we'd have to go to Wales and win - and we were down as fourth seeds - I would have taken it.

"So let's go for it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

WALES V IRELAND

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Wales can rise to occasion: Coleman'. Print Edition | Subscribe