Wales manager Chris Coleman said his side would approach next week’s crunch clash with England without fear after beating Slovakia 2-1 in their Euro 2016 opener.
After Gareth Bale’s stunning 10th-minute free-kick was cancelled out by Slovakia’s Ondrej Duda at Stadium Bordeaux on Saturday, Wales substitute Hal Robson-Kanu netted an 81st-minute winner to put his side in a commanding position in Group B.
If Wales beat England, who drew 1-1 with Russia in their opening match, they will be assured of a place in the last 16 and Coleman vowed that they will not feel any sense of inferiority against Roy Hodgson’s men.
“When we’re at our best and give our very, very best, then we don’t need to be concerned who the opposition is,” Coleman told reporters after his country’s first major tournament match since the 1958 World Cup.
“We just concern ourselves with ourselves because we know that we can give anyone a game.
“I’m not going to toy about with the formation, I’m not going to play mind games. Roy’s too experienced to fall for any of that nonsense, and I don’t believe in it.
“We’ll do what we’ve been doing. We can stick to what we believe in. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge and a big test, but it’s one that we’ll be ready for.”
He added: “We’re going against England, who are a top 10 team. They’ve had tournament football for a lot longer than we have. They’re used to high-pressure games.
“They’ve been there before. We haven’t. But that could also work to our advantage.
“We just need to concentrate on Wales. We don’t fear anybody. We’re concentrating on ourselves, because we know if we get our game right, it’s enough to get what we need to progress in the tournament.”
Coleman handed a surprise first start to Liverpool’s reserve goalkeeper Danny Ward after usual number one Wayne Hennessey suffered a back spasm on the eve of the game.
‘Loving him to pieces’
Coleman said that Hennessey was “devastated”, but added that the Crystal Palace goalkeeper had recovered from similar problems quickly in the past and will “hopefully” be able to “play some part” against England.
Bale was the centre of attention in the build-up to the match and he was quick to deliver, deceiving Matus Kozacik from 30 yards out to notch his 20th international goal.
For Coleman, however, it was the Real Madrid forward’s game management in the closing stages that truly set him apart.
“People will look at his goal, and he’s fast and powerful, but some of his best moments were at the end of the game, when we were 2-1, and his intelligence,” said the former Wales centre-back.
“He was basically heading the ball out of play in the corner to waste time. That’s just football intelligence. It’s not pretty, but it’s anything for the three points for Wales.
“Maybe he could have taken it down on his chest once or twice, but it wasn’t about Gareth Bale, it was about Wales, and he understood that.
“I think again his passion, you see how much he feeds off our supporters. He understands what’s needed of him from his country.
“He delivers that. What comes with that is three million Welsh people absolutely loving him to pieces and he deserves all that.”
Slovakia’s defeat, their first in nine matches, left them with little margin for error ahead of their meeting with Russia in Lille on Wednesday.
“It depends on the game,” said beaten coach Jan Kozak, whose side are appearing at their first European Championship as an independent nation.
“How the match develops, how we enter the game. I think that obviously we made some errors.
“We would have liked it to be a different scoreline, but we will do our best to have a better result in the next game.”
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