Euro 2016: Chris Coleman says Wales can cope with hostile crowd

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Wales Sport
Chris Coleman and Gareth Bale
Wales manager Chris Coleman has the strike power of Gareth Bale at his disposal against Israel
Euro 2016 qualifier: Israel v Wales
Venue: Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa Date: 28 March, 2015 Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

Wales manager Chris Coleman believes his side can cope with a hostile atmosphere and opposition "play-acting" when they face Israel on Saturday.

A sell-out crowd is expected in Haifa as Group B leaders Israel host Wales in a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier.

"Most of our players playing at the top level are used to that pressure, used to playing good players, international players, week in, week out," he said.

"What we have to put up with is a bit of play-acting, simulation."

Coleman said the fact most of his players regularly play in front of "50,000 or 60,000 fans" will help them at the Sammy Ofer Stadium.

"Our lads are looking forward to the atmosphere," he added.

Coleman's concern about potential "play-acting" from Israel comes after the Group B leaders' manager, Eli Guttman, insisted they would not employ specific tactics to nullify the threat of Wales forward Gareth Bale.

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The Real Madrid player was subjected to robust challenges when Wales beat Cyprus earlier in the campaign, though Coleman believes Bale is used to being targeted.

"Israel have got to do what they've got to do to get a result," said Coleman.

"If that's the way they go, it's nothing new for him. He's played most of his football in the Premier League and the Premier League is the most physical league in the world.

"I've watched him out in Spain in the derbies against Atletico Madrid and tougher games you don't get. He's come through all that."

Israel are top of Group B having won all three of their matches so far, while Wales are a point behind in second with two wins and two draws from their four games.

Neither side has ever reached a European Championship finals, but their encouraging start to this campaign has fuelled an optimism which was already heightened by the Euro 2016 finals expanding from 16 to 24 teams.

Coleman has described Saturday's meeting in Haifa as Wales' biggest match since their Euro 2004 play-off defeat to Russia in 2003 - and he admits such high stakes could cause nerves.

"Any manager who tells you they go into a game feeling relaxed is telling you a lie," Coleman added.

"But I'm excited. They're top, we're second and it's a much better pressure to have going into top-of-the-table clashes than when you're at the bottom.

"We welcome this type of pressure. It's what we work for."

One thing Coleman will not have to worry about is the Sammy Ofer Stadium pitch.

He and assistant coach Osian Roberts had expressed concerns about the surface following a previous visit to the ground, but Coleman is content with its current state.

"I was here about six weeks ago and the pitch didn't look too good then but it's in a good condition now so I'm happy," he said.

"I'm looking forward to it, the stadium is fantastic."

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