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'We can win last four games,' vows Coleman ahead of do-or-die clash

'Coleman has some selection issues to address' Photo: PA
'Coleman has some selection issues to address' Photo: PA

Alex Bywater

Chris Coleman's hopes of leading Wales to the 2018 World Cup in Russia remain in the balance ahead of tonight's all-important qualifier with Austria in Cardiff.

The pressure is on but with four Group D games to go, the manager is in confident mood. Despite his team being level on points with Austria and four adrift of joint leaders Republic of Ireland and Serbia, the former defender has the utmost faith in his charges.

Home advantage in their Cardiff City Stadium fortress, he believes, is enough to help Wales to victory over the best sides in the world. There will be no fear among those wearing red tonight.

"We can win the last four games, and that's no disrespect to Austria, Moldova, Georgia and the Republic of Ireland," Coleman said. "I know this is a statement, but I'll say it - it could be Brazil, Spain and Germany. I have that much confidence in our players and our team.

"If we get it right then there's nobody we need to fear. A draw in this game won't do either of us any good, so you would imagine something will have to give.

"Both teams are going to go for it, but we've been here before and we know how to handle these situations."

After reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 against the odds, Coleman is right to back his players. But deep down he will know six points must be gathered from the game with Austria and Tuesday's trip to Moldova.

Anything less is likely to represent a fatal blow to any hopes Wales fans might have of travelling to a second successive major tournament.

Austria are in the same boat, which should make for a fascinating contest.

Coleman has some selection issues to address. Midfielder Joe Allen is suspended, as is Neil Taylor. Gareth Bale is back to lead the forward line, while the Wales manager must also decide whether to gamble on starting Joe Ledley.

The midfielder is lacking match fitness and is without a club after being released by Crystal Palace. Ledley is likely to begin the game rather than be used from the bench, with Coleman a big fan of player's impact both on and off the pitch.

For Austria, Marko Arnautovic will be the main threat. The West Ham forward scored twice in a 2-2 draw in the return fixture in Vienna. Wales have drawn their past five qualifying games and must turn stalemates into wins.

Coleman, who has said this campaign will be his last - his contract expires in 2018 - remains convinced his team will make the World Cup.

"I can't think anything else other than we're going to Russia. I'm positive, I think we're in a good place. We need a big result and a big performance in this game. Forget the next three," he said.

"I don't regret saying this will be my last campaign. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Not everyone does that. I was honest and I do miss the day-to-day work.

"The trade-off I have is watching the boys singing the national anthem in Cardiff and I'm fronting that.

"To think going into this Austria game that someone could be stood there doing it instead of me leaves a real bad taste.

"The aim is Russia and that means we have to get Austria sorted out.

"I've had other offers, but the thought of handing the job over and someone else standing there instead of me doesn't sit well. I'm all in, I'm still manager of Wales. I think we'll take it to the wire, I really believe that."

A sell-out crowd in Cardiff is set to cheer Coleman's team on and it must not be forgotten that Wales remain unbeaten in this campaign. They should win this one, albeit narrowly. Any alternative is unthinkable.

"It's quite simple - we must win," said skipper Ashley Williams, who is one yellow card away from a ban.

"We enjoy playing in Cardiff. It's always a good atmosphere under the floodlights and we want to get the win and go into the next one." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales v Austria,
Live, Sky Sports Football, 7.45

Irish Independent

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