Wales fear no-one, says Coleman after opening win

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Euro 2016: Wales 2-1 Slovakia highlights

Chris Coleman says Wales have nothing to fear at Euro 2016 after their historic opening victory over Slovakia.

Hal Robson-Kanu’s late goal gave them a 2-1 win in their first match at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

With a game against England, who drew 1-1 with Russia, in Lens on Thursday, Wales have a golden opportunity to reach the knockout stages in France.

“We don’t need to fear anybody. If we are ourselves it can be enough to get what we want,” said Wales boss Coleman.

“It was unbelievable. I’m so delighted for our supporters – we’ve waited a long time.

“We’ll enjoy these moments in this competition if we do what we did today. That’s what it’s all about.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes you are afraid of the unknown, but we just have to go about our business.”

‘It’s difficult not to get carried away’


Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring with Wales’ first ever shot at a European Championships

The match against Slovakia was one for which Wales had waited 58 years, catharsis for a nation wearily accustomed to failure, be it agonisingly narrow or simply abject.

Those decades of disappointment were purged in a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem, which seemed to have a profound effect on the Welsh players, with Gareth Bale visibly moved.

“You have experiences in football that you think you might not be able to top that,” said Coleman.

“It happened against Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium when our supporters started the national anthem. I didn’t think you’d be able to top that but you walk out today and seeing the sea of red, they were everywhere.

“When the national anthem was being sung before the kick-off, that was absolutely incredible.

“You really have to keep your focus and detach yourself a little bit. It’s very difficult not to get carried away.”

Almost there?

With 16 of the 24 teams in the expanded European Championship qualifying for the second round, Wales have realistic aspirations of reaching the knockout stages.

With England having failed to beat Russia on Saturday, Wales’ opening-game victory means they top the group by two points ahead of their eagerly anticipated match with Roy Hodgson’s side on Thursday, 16 June.

Their final group game is against Russia in Toulouse on Monday, 20 June.

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Hal Robson-Kanu scores late winner for Wales

However, Coleman remains cautious.

“I said before the game, whatever happens today if we got three points, one point or no points, it didn’t matter about the result because you’re not guaranteed anything,” he added.

“We got the three points which is fantastic, but more important was the performance.”

More than a one-man team?

It was no surprise Bale, who scored seven of Wales’ 11 goals in qualifying, was the man to claim their first goal of the competition.

The Real Madrid forward had stressed before the Slovakia encounter that Wales are not a one-man team, and the performance in Bordeaux demonstrated how Welsh success is as dependent on their commitment and team ethic as it is the form of Bale.

Robson-Kanu impressed in his substitute appearance, while Joe Allen held the midfield together with a commanding display.

There was also a first international start for Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward, in for the injured Wayne Hennessey.

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Euros 2016: Coleman Bale hail Wales support

“It was such a blow for Wayne. We always talk about the outfield players,” said Coleman. “We don’t talk about the goalkeeper but he’s a big reason we’re sitting here.

“He’s devastated, but we were not in a position where we could take a chance with him.

“But Danny Ward stepped up and he’s only got two caps, and to come into that atmosphere and perform like that, I thought he was outstanding.”

‘Advantage against England’

Coleman did not want to add to the hyperbole over the England game.

“We are the underdogs. England are a top-10 team, and they are used to high pressure situations,” he said.

“They have been there before, we haven’t, but that could work to our advantage.”

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