WALES V BELGIUM (Tonight, KO 7.45)
MANAGER Chris Coleman wants his charges to live up to the billing of being Wales’ new golden generation ahead of their first competitive match of his tenure.
A crop of stars have come through the ranks together, including Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Liverpool’s Joe Allen, and have enjoyed steady progress in recent years, drawing
comparison with the last list of star names which included Neville Southall, Gary Speed, Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush and Dean Saunders.
Wales’ travails under John Toshack led to a bottom seeding for this campaign but the progress under previous boss Gary Speed was highly encouraging.
Now Coleman wants his players to show such hype and praise is warranted and admits the achievements under Speed are no longer relevant in assessing his squad.
“We can’t keep looking over our shoulders at the past, it’s a burden,” he said.
“Already people are talking about a golden generation of players, well I’ll agree with that when we do the business, that’s when it’ll be a golden generation of players.
“We haven’t done anything. We haven’t qualified. You can win friendlies and qualifying matches, but we’ve got to qualify.
“We need to stop looking to the past and I don’t mean that in a cold way. I think everyone knows what my relationship was with Gary (Speed).
“We need to push on for a fresh start. That’s what Speedy would’ve wanted anyway.
“It’s a new campaign, some changes have been forced upon us because of injury, but we are all on zero points and need to concentrate on our performance.”
Wales are expected to stick with Speed’s preferred 4-3-2-1 system with Coleman keen for the players to feel comfortable.
Joe Ledley, David Vaughan, Jack Collison, Neil Taylor and Craig Bellamy are all absentees but Newport’s James Collins, who made a summer move to West Ham, is likely to return as a starter.
David Edwards of Wolves and Reading’s Hal Robson-Kanu are also likely to come into the side.
Belgium are expected to emulate Spain by playing Eden Hazard as an invisible number nine in a formation with no central strikers.