The meeting with England may be the fixture whetting the appetite of the Wales supporters ahead of Euro 2016, but Chris Coleman has other ideas.
Having qualified for the first major tournament since 1958 – and their first ever European Championships – the Welsh have been drawn in Group B along with England, Russia and Slovakia. The obvious eye-catcher from this pool is the meeting between the two home nations in Lens on June 16, but for Coleman, he is relishing another of their fixtures.
Turn the clock back 12 years and there was heartbreak for the Welsh when they lost a playoff against Russia to reach Euro 2004. The 1-0 aggregate defeat left a sour taste in the mouth of Mark Hughes’ side, who discovered that Egor Titov had played in the second leg of the tie despite failing a drugs test after the first, something UEFA decided against taking action on.
“They broke our hearts that day and I still remember that feeling of losing in the play-offs,” said Coleman, who won 32 international caps for his country before his career was cut short when he broke his leg in a car crash in 2001. “Payback – my son texted me that immediately after the draw: payback. I remember the feeling when we missed out – it was horrible.”
Russia provide the final opposition for the Welsh in Toulouse, whilst they start against Slovakia in Bordeaux before they travel to Lens to take on England. Coleman admitted on the eve of the draw that he wanted to avoid Roy Hodgson’s side due to the media attention it is sure to generate leading up to the game, but he admits he is looking forward to the test.
“Well, we’ve got them, it will be a great game,” he added. “We would have wanted to avoid it, but we look forward to it. We deserve to be here and I think the tournament will be a fantastic one. To play England, a fantastic team, it’s going to be a real occasion, the atmosphere will be electric and we will also be in interesting company with Russia and Slovakia.”