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Chris Coleman believes Wales fairytale journey will continue for years

By Glenn Moore

Chris Coleman spent yesterday looking beyond today's crucial Euro 16 tie against Russia to the 2018 World Cup and beyond.

A Wales win in the Stade Municipal will ensure their passage to the knock-out stage. A point should be enough. Even defeat might not send them home.

Coleman, though, was keen to stress "whether we progress or not this is not the end of the journey for this team, this team will go on and on".

He added: "There is more to come from these players in the future and we will take so much from this tournament. This group can't lose, they have everything to look forward to. We are playing against the best in Europe. We have to be at our best physically, mentally, tactically. We are being tested to the limits and learning so much."

These are the sort of comments a manager usually comes out with during the post-mortem after a team has been knocked out, a case of seeking the positives. But Coleman's timing is calculated.

His intention is to take the pressure off his players, who were clearly intimidated by the enormity of the occasion against England.

This is Wales' first tournament for more than half a century, and simply being here is an achievement with progress a bonus, not that players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey would be content with a group stage exit.

Russia's footballers, however, though Leonid Slutsky did his best to downplay the link, are under growing stress with their hosting of World Cup 2018 fast approaching.

As has been evident in doping revelations in other sports, the current Russian government sees sport as a means of projecting Russian power abroad and stoking national pride at home. The pressure to impress at a home tournament will be overwhelming, but the current team looks leaden. This is not new. Russia have not won in seven tournament matches during in which time they have lost to Greece, Belgium and Slovakia and drawn with Poland, Algeria, South Korea and England. Russia have twice as many footballers as the entire population of Wales but apart from the false dawn of reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008 finding 11 to make a winning team has long proved elusive.

LIke England before them they discovered that Fabio Capello was over-rated, over-paid and over the hill. Slutsky rescued qualification for France but has been hamstrung by the loss of key players, notably midfield creator Alan Dagoev.

Belfast Telegraph