Football

Chris Coleman says the underdog tag will suit Wales in their Euro 2016 quarter-final against Belgium.

Wales boss: Chris Coleman: We will be underdogs, but we won't be fearing Belgium

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Chris Coleman is happy to be facing Belgium in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 as the underdog tag suits Wales.

Coleman's side overcame plucky Northern Ireland to reach the last eight of the tournament with a 1-0 win in Paris on Saturday.

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It was a tense encounter, with the unfortunate Gareth McAuley's late own goal settling the tie, and the burden of being favourites appeared to weigh heavily on Wales.

However, Wales will be very much quarter-finals underdogs in Lille on Friday after Belgium, second in the FIFA world rankings, thrashed Hungary 4-0 on Sunday evening.

"We were edgy going into the Northern Ireland game as we were expected to win and we work better as the underdog," manager Coleman said.

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"We have proved that - and people will expect Belgium to win.

"They had some criticism coming into the tournament and they lost the first game.

"But if you have a squad with that quality then any team you play against, apart from maybe two of three, Belgium are favourites."

Despite their lofty world ranking and stellar squad, and Eden Hazard was at his impish best against Hungary on Sunday, Belgium do not hold any fear factor for Wales.

Belgium played Wales both in 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 qualifying and have not won any of their last three meetings.

Wales held Belgium twice in Brussels and won 1-0 in Cardiff just over a year ago when Gareth Bale's winner all but booked their place at this European Championship.

"We have dealt with it before and we will be up against it," Coleman said.

"We have had to face that quality as they are a top team.

"We will be the underdogs, but we won't be fearing Belgium.

"When teams go for us and play open, we can do a lot of damage."

Wales returned to their Brittany base on Sunday evening after the squad were allowed to spend time with their families in Paris.

Coleman wanted his players to have downtime "to get away from it" before starting their preparations for the quarter-final.

Wales must wait to see if captain Ashley Williams is fit for Friday after he suffered a shoulder injury against Northern Ireland.

Williams has had scans on the damaged shoulder and vice-captain Aaron Ramsey, the skipper in the Gary Speed era, would be expected to get the armband if the Swansea defender does not make it.

"When we gave the captaincy to Ash it was really to try to get the best out of Aaron and take some responsibility off his shoulders," Coleman said.

"We must not forget what happened with Speeds, and Rambo was affected by that. He had a real good relationship with Speeds, so we tried to take some pressure off Rambo.

"Aaron has been the vice-captain since and I believe that he will be the captain of Wales one day when it is not Ashley Williams.

"You have Rambo, (Gareth) Bale, (Joe) Allen, (Chris) Gunter. They all have experience and whoever it will be, if I have to make that decision I will tell them personally."

By reaching the quarter-finals, Wales have emulated the achievements of the 1958 side who achieved the same feat at the World Cup in Sweden.

That was the last time Wales played at a major tournament and Coleman said the impact both back home and in France, where supporters have been present in their thousands, has astounded him.

"We have seen what it means to Wales, and it is breathtaking," Coleman said.

"The images I have been shown are of the fans back home when we have scored or won, and they have gone absolutely mental.

"It is a great feeling, knowing you are making so many people happy."

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Topics:
Wales
Gareth Bale
Euro 2016
Football
Chris Coleman
Aaron Ramsey

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