2018 World Cup qualifiers: Coleman ready for next adventure

Chris Coleman
"It was really hard, I found it really tough, and I know a lot of the lads did too. You just miss that buzz." - Chris Coleman

It is a scene every Welsh football fan will recognise: rewatching goals from Wales' historic Euro 2016 campaign in an attempt to relive the euphoria of an unforgettable summer.

The moment has passed, the rapturous celebrations fading from view, but still they cling to the memories. As does the man who masterminded it all.

It is almost two months since Chris Coleman guided Wales to a first semi-final at a major tournament and, although he is in Cardiff to name his squad for Wales' opening 2018 World Cup qualifier, conversation inevitably turns back to events in France.

Coleman gives a pensive sigh as he collects his thoughts, his mind transported back to those stirring nights in Toulouse and Lille.

Yet he has to snap out of the trance. A new campaign beckons as Wales host Moldova on 5 September.

Wales players and staff celebrate their Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium
Wales players and staff celebrate their Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium

Coleman and his players will be braced for their next challenge but, beyond the cool facade of professionalism, it will be difficult to rouse themselves from their post-Euros comedown.

"For two weeks when I got home, I think my wife was expecting me to be something else and I clearly wasn't. I was on a real downer," Coleman says.

"You come out of one situation which is so exciting, it's hard work and it's exhausting actually, but there's everything on it and you feel all the emotion from everybody.

"And when it's finished, it's not like you get weened off it, it is just done and you're home and back into reality, back into real life where you're fathers and husbands and it's completely different.

"It was really hard, I found it really tough, and I know a lot of the lads did too. You just miss that buzz. When you're in it, sometimes you feel like you need just five minutes' rest from it but, I promise you once it stops and you're out of it, you pine for it. I still do.

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"I still look back and, especially if you see one of the games on TV, and you put yourself back in that moment, it's dangerous because that moment's finished."

Coleman recognises the "danger" of looking back and standing still because he realises the gravity of Wales' next assignment.

Their appearance at Euro 2016 was their first at a major tournament for 58 years, and reaching a maiden semi-final has given them the belief they now belong in international football's upper echelons.

Coleman has consistently maintained the campaign in France would not be the end for this Wales team, and his players share his desire to make qualifying for these events a regular occurrence.

It is not a matter of forgetting the ecstasy of Euro 2016 but of harnessing it, learning from the campaign and using the experience to create more golden moments.

"We've got to start it again. We've got to recreate something new because that's gone," Coleman adds.

"But every time you see it, you want to be back in it because it was so spectacular and special."

New pressure as favourites

Wales' best hope of replicating the elation of the summer will be to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

As European Championship semi-finalists and top seeds in Group D, Coleman's men find themselves in the unusual position of shouldering great expectations.

Although there is no genuine international heavyweight, the presence of Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova and Georgia makes this one of the most open groups in Europe.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
Cristiano Ronaldo's semi-final goal for Portugal sent Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates out of Euro 2016

Having defied the odds to qualify for Euro 2016 as fourth seeds - and then confounded them further during the tournament in France - Wales must now cope with the new pressure of being favourites.

"I am not sure people think we will sail through the group, but there may be an expectation of us playing super attractive football, creating chances and scoring loads of goals," Coleman says.

"If it goes that way it will be great, but I know football is not like that. Teams will not open up against us, they will do to us what we did to a lot of teams in the last campaign.

"This first game, everyone expects us to win because of where the teams are in the rankings and how we did in the tournament.

"It will be a hard game for us, not just because they will make it tough, but the expectation is different and it is about our mindset. It's a different challenge."

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