Dinard (France) (AFP) – Wales boss Chris Coleman insisted Wednesday he is not yet trying to plot a path through the minefield of the European Championship knockout rounds.
And Coleman indicated he could make changes to the team that brilliantly beat Russia 3-0 for their last 16 match against Northern Ireland or Turkey in Paris on Saturday.
With myriad routes possible in looming rounds before Wednesday’s final games, Coleman said he was staying away from the guessing game.
“I’ll tell you how I look at it — and players and staff -– the only pathway I am thinking about is the first 45 minutes on Saturday and how we find our way through that.
“The second pathway is at half-time and those second 45 minutes. If it goes to extra time or penalties, whatever it is, beyond that I promise I’m not saying we can play this side or that side,” Coleman said.
“We have to have feet firmly on the ground here. Everyone’s talking about this possibility or that possibility.
“We have seen before that everything’s possible in football, but one minute you’re right there and everything’s great, the next you take your eye off the ball and everything’s fallen down.
“Whoever is it down the line that’s when you get on with it and take care of the business in front of you. There’s no talk in my camp about who could be next after the last 16. No way, I wouldn’t allow that.
“There’s not a team in this tournament who can think like that, not even Germany or Spain, We’ve seen the games are so tight. Once we find out who is next we’ll focus on it and put everything into that challenge.”
Wales’ win over Russia saw them leapfrog England in Group B to advance into a last 16 clash with Northern Ireland or Turkey.
A win then and Belgium and Croatia are the likely obstacles standing in the way of a remarkable run to the final in Paris on July 10.
England, by contrast, face the runners-up in Group F in the next round and would need to negotiate their way past the likes of France, Germany, Italy or Spain to be in with a chance of winning the tournament.
– Unfamiliar territory –
Having waited 58 years to be part of a major tournament, this is unchartered territory for Wales and knock-out football will bring with the possibility of a penalty shoot-out.
But Coleman has no plans to spend time specifically working on honing down a list of potential spot-kick takers.
Several Wales players stay behind after training to work on free-kicks and practise penalties. The manager feels no need to do any more than that.
“I would say three days out of five naturally a few guys just grab a ball after training and take penalties,” he said.
“We could practise every day and the guys won’t miss. But how do you recreate 50,000 people breathing down your neck and all the eyes on the world are on you when you need to put in the back of the net?
“If it comes our way we’ll try and deal with it the best we can.”
Wales’ win over Russia in Toulouse on Monday ranks alongside the finest ever by a Dragons side in their 137-year international history.
But Coleman has not ruled out the prospect of making changes for Saturday’s Parc des Princes encounter.
“If I look at the opposition and think we can create different problems with a different player, it’s horses for courses,” he said.
“We can perhaps cause problems if we change one or two faces. We haven’t changed formation yet, but our guys are absolutely loving every minute of this, they deserve all the accolades. But there’s a massive challenge coming next.”
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