Toulouse, France: Gareth Bale said Wales’ Euro 2016 fate is in their own hands as they look to qualify for the last 16 in a potentially high-risk match against Russia in Toulouse.
Real Madrid forward Bale has been inspirational in Wales’ European Championship debut, hitting the net in a 2-1 win over Slovakia and again in the 2-1 defeat to England in Lens.
Wales lie second in Group B, one point behind leaders England but firmly in contention for a historic place in the last 16.
A win in Toulouse, where security is set to be tight following shocking scenes of fan violence between England and Russia supporters in Marseille last week, would see Wales guarantee direct qualification – although even defeat could see Wales go through as one of the four best third-placed group finishers.
Bale, who scored trademark free kicks against Slovakia and England to sit among the tournament’s top scorers after two games, admitted defeat to England through Daniel Sturridge’s injury-time goal was hard to digest.
But the 26-year-old said Wales’ “close group” of players are in high spirits and ready to keep their dream alive.
“Obviously after the (England) game we were very disappointed, especially to lose in that manner,” Bale said Saturday.
“But we have to forget about it. It’s over. Our fate is in our own hands, and if you’d given us this at the start of the tournament we would have taken it.
“We’re so excited for our last game. Everything’s to play for, the nation’s behind us, as normal, and we will be looking forward to it.
“We’ll try to embrace the occasion and qualify.”
With only one point to their name, following Vasili Berezutski’s last-gasp equaliser against England, Leonid Slutsky’s embattled Russia would be forgiven for wishing their tournament was over following a crushing 2-1 defeat to Slovakia.
It has left them bottom of the table and needing to beat Wales to have any chance of adding some optimism to their campaign after what has been a controversial week for the team and its supporters.
Yet their campaign was compounded even before they kicked a ball in anger in Marseille, as Russian ultras attacked England fans in the port city hours before kick-off.
Further attacks on England fans inside the Stade Velodrome before the final whistle mean Russia are now walking a tightrope. UEFA has warned that a repeat at Stadium de Toulouse could lead to expulsion from Euro 2016 regardless of the result.
Three days after three Russian supporters were given jail sentences, French authorities deported Alexander Shprygin, the outspoken far-right leader of a football supporters group, and 19 other fans in relation to the incidents.
Yet, in comments at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, Russia President Vladimir Putin appeared to poke fun at England when he said, to laughs and applause: “I truly don’t understand how 200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English.”
Wales will be hoping for an incident-free evening in La Ville Rose (The Pink City), so called because of the colour given to the city’s low-level buildings when the sun goes down.
Coleman admits Russia’s players will be desperate to make amends, but he said Wales will not be expecting any favours.
“Russia have experience. They’ll be hurting after the defeat against Slovakia, but it’s all on this last game,” he said.
“It’s whichever team’s able to put the disappointment behind them from this middle round of fixtures which will prevail.
“That’s tournament football. But it’s still down to us. We’re not asking for any favours. We have to take care of business ourselves.”