Wales coach Chris Coleman is keen to make up for lost time as his side’s Euro 2016 adventure enters the Round of 16 and he guides the national team to the kind of success that eluded him as a player. (RESULTS | STANDINGS)
Coleman featured 32 times for Wales before he was forced to retire through injury following a car crash in 2002 at 32.
Yet despite playing alongside some of the most famous names in Welsh football, the ex-defender and his talented team mates never qualified for a major tournament.
Now, having taken Wales to Euro 2016 as coach and guided them into the knock-out stages as Group B winners after thumping Russia, Coleman is finally enjoying the kind of success that evaded him in his playing days.
“This is the best, I think,” Coleman began, when asked in Toulouse how Wales’ 3-0 victory over Russia ranked among his career highlights.
“As a player, I was a part of a few good teams,” Coleman added, “but we missed out, so now I’m lucky to be able to experience what I never did as a player.
“I’m fortunate I can now as a manager.”
The current Welsh team do not have the concentration of star power of Coleman’s generation, with players of the quality of Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush, Gary Speed, Mark Hughes and Neville Southall failing to make it to a tournament finals.
Yet in Gareth Bale, Wales have a player who has fuelled optimism that they can at least equal the nation’s best tournament performance a quarter-final appearance at the 1958 World Cup.
Bale became only the seventh player in European Championship history to score in all three group matches when he added the third against Russia.
He was also the first player since Milan Baros in Euro 2004 to score in each of his first three matches at a European Championship finals, becoming the national side’s highest goalscorer in major tournaments in the process.
“At times, Bale’s won games extraordinarily,” Coleman continued. “I can understand the one-man team tag if you have a player like him who plays for Real Madrid.
“He fits our style of play and he enjoys it. He’s a great player — I can’t say that flippantly.”