Coleman: We can handle hostility and 'shenanigans'
Wales manager Chris Coleman is determined to finally banish the demons of his Serbia nightmare, five years on from his side's heaviest defeat in two decades.
A 6-1 defeat in Novi Sad in 2012 ended Welsh hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 1958. Another setback in the Balkans tomorrow would leave their hopes of reaching Russia in tatters, but Coleman is relishing the chance to put those memories behind him.
"As soon as I got off the plane a few months ago, I could feel it. It was only a recce, but I had butterflies in my stomach," he said.
"We can't say this is another game in the group because it's not, for more than one reason. And one of the reasons is that I suffered there, we suffered there - and it was my fault. That will never leave me.
"But I can't wait for it. I know it's going to be tough, but I like meeting those challenges. We have to stand up to them and not go away with our tails between our legs."
Defeat would leave Wales with a sinking feeling, a year on from the high of beating Slovakia 2-1 to get their charge to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 up and running.
The carnival atmosphere in France will feel a million miles away from the hostile surroundings of Belgrade's Rajko Mitic stadium. But Coleman wants his men to feed off the pressure cooker atmosphere.
He is up against it tomorrow, after Hal Robson-Kanu became the latest key player to pull out of the squad, due to a calf injury. That may force Wales, who are also without the suspended Gareth Bale, to alter their 3-5-2 blueprint and use Sam Vokes as a lone striker.
More than 40,000 are expected to greet Wales at the Rajko Mitic Stadium and the hostility levels are expected to be turned up to maximum.
"All of a sudden, from wherever it comes, the crowd start getting really rowdy in these places," Coleman said.
"The opposition up the tempo for five or 10 minutes and they bombard you. You stand up to it or you duck it. There's no third option. You need to answer those questions, physically, mentally and tactically."
But Coleman feels his players are prepared these days for what he calls "shenanigans".
"Countless times I've been away on international duty as a player and a manager… little things which people probably wouldn't see," Coleman said.
"But the more you're in it, you see it's not by coincidence.
"The journey from the hotel normally takes 20 minutes and they'll say 'You know what, tonight, we've got to leave now because it will be mayhem'.
"So you end up getting to the stadium 30 minutes before you want to be there. All things like that are meant." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Serbia v Wales, Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 7.45