Wales' Euro 2016 qualification 'belief' impresses Thierry Henry

Wales are unbeaten in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign under manager Chris Coleman
Wales are unbeaten in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign under manager Chris Coleman
Euro 2016 qualifier: Wales v Belgium
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Friday, 12 June Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and the BBC Sport website

Thierry Henry has praised Chris Coleman's Wales squad for making a nation believe they can qualify for Euro 2016.

The former France striker points to the growing maturity of players such as Aaron Ramsey for Wales' good form.

Ramsey, 24, collected his second FA Cup winners medal after Arsenal's 4-0 triumph over Aston Villa on Saturday.

"I don't know when was the last time I saw your country talking the way you are talking about it," Henry said.

"Every time I speak to a Welsh person they say 'we are going to go to [the finals] Paris'. I truly hope they will do it.

"But they have made you guys believe that they can, that is already for me a success."

The Wales squad will assemble on Monday to begin preparations for their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Belgium in Cardiff on 12 June.

Thierry Henry scored 51 goals in 123 games for France and won two Premier League titles with Arsenal
Thierry Henry scored 51 goals in 123 games for France and won two Premier League titles with Arsenal

Belgium are top of Group B, with Wales in second place on goal difference only and with a great chance of reaching a major tournament finals for the first time since 1958.

World Cup winner Henry, 37, who scored 51 goals in 123 games for France, says Wales' unbeaten campaign to date has seen belief soar.

"I am more a believer in doing instead of talking, but for your country it is massive," said the former Arsenal striker, who was attending a Welsh Football Trust coaching conference in Newport.

"It is massive for the youth, it is massive for the guys who are working to tell them it is the right path because they can now see light at the end of the tunnel.

"So I would say they are making you now believe that they can go and play in a big competition in France for the European Championship.

"Now can they make that dream a reality. That will be the cherry on the cake and that will fully be a success."

But Henry, a European Championship winner with France in 2000, also warned there is still much work ahead for Coleman's men.

"They have done the hard part. They went to win in Israel and they drew in Belgium," Henry said.

"You would like to think that it should be all right to finish that off, but... sometimes crossing that finishing line can be the hardest thing in the world."

Henry says an increasingly mature Ramsey can be a huge boost to the cause, believing that "something had changed" in the Arsenal player this season.

"I saw him growing as a man, more mature. Not scared of taking control of the game," Henry said.

Aaron Ramsey (L) hands the FA Cup to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at Wembley
Aaron Ramsey (L) hands the FA Cup to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at Wembley

"I see it also when he is playing for Wales. The way he played against Israel he knows he needs to be as good as Gareth Bale, because you are not going to reach the promised land and go to France only with Gareth Bale being good.

"You need Ramsey to turn up, you need Joe Ledley to be good, you need Joe Allen to be good, you need Ashley Williams to be good and the whole squad.

"So I think he took that on board, like the others. But obviously you know if you want to go to France it is going to have to be around Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale... your special players are going to win you the game."

Henry said Ramsey's versatility showed with the way he had adapted to a central role for Wales, but often playing wide for Arsenal.

"That shows you again a sign of how he has matured. He does not go against it, he does not play the 'me' card, he plays the 'we' card," Henry added.

Henry was at the coaching conference along with two other members of Arsenal's 2002 'invincibles' - Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell.

The Frenchman is currently completing his 'B' licence coaching badges with the Welsh Football Trust and Henry is impressed with the organisation under technical director Osian Roberts.

"The identity, the philosophy about the game is basically the way I see the game too, so therefore it was the perfect match for me," Henry added.

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