herald

Sunday 25 June 2017

Welsh seeking hangover cure from Euros

Chris Coleman. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters
Chris Coleman. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters

What do Wales have that none of the other semi-finalists from Euro 2016 have? A hangover, for one.

The Welsh camp have some minor squad problems to deal with as they assemble in Cardiff to prepare for Thursday's flight to Dublin. While the Irish squad is ravaged by injury, Wales boss Chris Coleman, now that he has Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey fit again, is not as stressed as Martin O'Neill.

There was one blow for the Welsh, though, with news yesterday that Ipswich man Tom Lawrence was out of the squad for Friday's qualifier.

Wales rely heavily on Bale for goals but Lawrence, who has played just once, as sub, in the qualifiers to date is a handy back-up plan, given his form with Ipswich.

So no injury crisis for Coleman but he has bigger issues to deal with: how come his side are still trying to reach the heights they set for themselves in France last summer?

Most of the semi-finalists from Euro 2016 have put the tournament to bed: Germany have strolled through life since the Euros, six wins and six clean sheets since they lost to France in the semis.

France and Portugal have both done reasonably well to cope with life after the Euros, though they each had a blip in qualifying for the World Cup, France held 0-0 in Belarus and Portugal losing 2-0 in Switzerland, but they are both back on track.

But apart from a flattering 4-0 win over Moldova, Wales have struggled, three draws from their other three games. The big concern for Coleman this week, as he plans for the Dublin tie, is how to cope when the plan is not implemented in full.

In their three other qualifiers, Wales have been in front, but have been unable to hold on to the lead. They had two bites of the cherry in Austria, were in the lead twice, but could only draw 2-2 and it seems they have yet to get back to normal life. "You miss that buzz. You feel like you need a rest when it is going on, but once it finishes you pine for it," Coleman has said of that post-Euros feeling.

"When you see the games on TV you feel yourself going back to it. It was so special, but it is gone, that moment is finished. We have to create something new."

The hangover has yet to clear, but one more slip-up in Dublin and Wales can put on hold any plans to make another movie about the 2018 World Cup finals.

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