Belfast Telegraph

Wales boss Coleman plans to avoid slip-ups on artificial pitch

By Phil Blanche

Wales manager Chris Coleman believes his young side are ready to deliver at last – but he would still take a 1-0 victory in Andorra tonight.

The rise of Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale and Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey, not to mention a healthy sprinkling of solid Premier League performers, has taken expectation levels in Wales to new heights as Coleman's squad start out on the road to Euro 2016.

Wales have not qualified for a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. But Coleman feels this team can challenge group favourites Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina for the automatic two qualifying spots, let alone make the play-offs by finishing third in a group which includes Israel, Cyprus and Andorra.

"There's a reason why people talk so highly of the group because it's true that when we're at our best we are a good side," Coleman said. "I sense the expectation and, two years ago, I would have been wary of it. I'm not now and I won't shy away from it.

"We have to take it as a compliment and deal with it, and if we do that we'll do the business.

"Belgium and Bosnia are the top teams and then it's the other four, but we have a chance to put pressure on those two.

"I don't want to go at it thinking there's a possibility of a play-off. Let's go for the top two."

Andorra are ranked 199 in the world and their statistics do not make impressive reading: they have won only one competitive game since their introduction to world football in 1998, not collected a single point in Euro qualifying and not managed a competitive goal for four years.

But they tend not to suffer heavy defeats and the Netherlands struggled to a 2-0 victory in Andorra during the 2014 World Cup qualifying.

"We're not going to into the game thinking about we're going to win it this way, we just want the win and I'd take 1-0," Coleman said. "As good as we can be, we've also shown tendencies where we can be a little bit loose and a bit carried away. We can't have that."

The build-up has been dominated by the controversial surface at the newly-built National Stadium in Andorra la Vella. The stadium's artificial 3G surface was only passed fit for use by UEFA last Wednesday after original tests showed the ball was rolling too fast on the pitch.

But Coleman will not be blaming the pitch should things go dramatically wrong and Wales suffer one of the biggest embarrassments in world football.

"Whatever happens I won't mention the pitch," Coleman said.

"All I'm interested in is getting home with the points in the bag and we can take it from there."

Belfast Telegraph

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