Coleman and Rush know a different type of pressure is now on Wales
Published 05/09/2016 | 02:30
For Wales, hope has now given way to expectation. The burden of qualifying for their first major tournament was spectacularly shed in France, but having tasted success, they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign as a genuine power in their group.
Manager Chris Coleman knows a different type of pressure is on his players as they prepare to face Moldova tonight. Those inside the Cardiff City stadium will not only be reflecting upon and acclaiming the achievements of the summer, but believing the side should qualify for Russia.
If this "golden generation" of Welsh footballers had to cope with the demand to realise their potential, now it is a question of matching, or even exceeding, Euro 2016. What is certain is no one will underestimate the Welsh.
"People will look at us differently now," said Coleman. "Teams will come here and be happy with a point when maybe that wasn't the case before. It's a different challenge, a good one, and it's exciting for us. "
Ian Rush, the elite performance director for the Welsh Football Trust, echoes Coleman's view. He expects home fixtures in particular to become games of patience, Wales having to master the art of grinding out victories against negative opponents.
Rush said: "This Welsh side has moved to a different level now. In many ways, it will be even tougher in this campaign. We saw in two games last season the challenge facing us.
"When we played Israel in our final home qualifier for the Euros, they were happy to come to Cardiff and play for a 0-0, hoping to catch Wales on the counter-attack.
"The biggest compliment of all was when we played Portugal in the semi-final and they did exactly the same."
Coleman is sourcing as much motivation as possible to reset his squad's goals. His stock has risen as much as his players' and a successful World Cup campaign would make him the greatest coach the country has ever had.
"For the World Cup, I have to use the word 'desperation'. We need to feel like that," said Coleman.
A World Cup can eclipse the Euros, but evolving the side by gradually introducing the next generation of Welsh youngsters is also a priority. Liverpool possess the exciting Harry Wilson and Ben Woodburn, the latter being only 16.
Wilson has made his Wales senior debut and Woodburn excelled for Jurgen Klopp during pre-season. Tyler Roberts (17) made his debut for West Brom in the final Premier League game of last season and was invited to train with the senior squad prior to the Euros. He is currently on loan at Oxford.
Rush added: "What we don't want is people looking back in 10, 20 or even another 58 years' time saying - remember Euro 2016."
Wales must do without two of the heroes of France this week. Aaron Ramsey and Jonny Williams are injured.
Wales v Moldova
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