Ambitious Coleman certain this is just the start
Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30
Chris Coleman is looking forward beyond today's crucial Group B tie against Russia, to the 2018 World Cup and beyond.
A Wales win in the Stade Municipa 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.
"There is more to come from these players and we will take so much from this tournament. This group can't lose - they have lots to look forward to."
In many ways he is right. This is Wales' first tournament for more than half a century. 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.
In contrast, Russia's footballers 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; they have lost to Greece, Belgium and Slovakia and drawn with Poland, Algeria, South Korea and England.
They 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, to their, cost that Fabio Capello was over-rated, over-paid and over the hill.
Leonid Slutsky rescued qualification for France but has been hamstrung by the loss of key players, notably midfield creator Alan Dagoev.
© Independent News Service