Wales boss Coleman calls for World Cup focus after Euro 2016 run


Dinard (France) (AFP) – Wales will climb to 11th in the FIFA rankings following their stunning semi-final showing at Euro 2016, but manager Chris Coleman said on Friday that the team must now focus on the World Cup.

Gareth Bale and his team-mates returned to a heroes’ welcome in Cardiff after their shock exploits in France, where they fell 2-0 to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last four.

Wins over Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium, the world’s second-ranked team, are set to lift Wales 15 places in the FIFA rankings, making them the top British side.

“The rankings can change pretty quickly, so we mustn’t get too carried away with being the top-ranked British country,” said Coleman, whose country were ranked 117th in 2011.

“But it’s always nice to be up there. It’s especially nice to see when you’re a country whose previous high was around 35, 40 or 45.

“Sometimes we’ve even dropped out of the top 100 during some bad times. So when you start toying around the top 10, that’s a good feeling.

“But we can’t get too carried away because the rankings can shift pretty quickly.”

Appearing at a first major tournament in 58 years, Wales defied expectations by finishing above England in their group before beating Northern Ireland and Belgium.

The last-16 victory over Northern Ireland in Paris saw them match their only other tournament appearance, when they reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup.

Their adventure finally ended in Lyon on Wednesday when goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani sent Portugal into Sunday’s final against France.

– ‘Different pressure’ –

Wales went into the tournament ranked 26th, below group rivals England and Slovakia, but they will climb above both teams when the new rankings are published next week.

Now Wales will turn their attention to reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Qualification kicks off in September with Coleman’s men drawn alongside Austria, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Moldova and Georgia in Group D.

“There is going to be a different pressure on us from now on,” Coleman told a press conference in Dinard, France, before flying home with his squad.

“People will not be happy with just plucky old Wales. They will expect us to deliver and that’s the next step for us.

“When we played against teams we could normally defend deep and they would have to try and break us down. But that’s going to be reversed on us from now on.

“We saw that a bit against Portugal, who paid us a great compliment in the way they defended deep and narrow, which we found hard to break down.

“That’s something we need to get used to. We’ve got it all to do to make sure this is not a one-off. We have to keep moving forward to make sure we are always there or thereabouts.”

Coleman, who signed a new two-year contact before Euro 2016, added: “We haven’t got long before we’re back on it and we’re in a tough group, but it’s very exciting.

“The reaction at home has been fantastic. It’s great for the whole of Wales to feel such pride in what this team has done and the way they — and the fans — have conducted themselves.”

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