Manager Coleman elated as country reaches first major finals since 1958 .
ZENICA: Wales manager Chris Coleman went from despair to elation in a matter of seconds as his country finally ended their 57-year wait to reach a major tournament despite a 2-0 defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday.
When the final whistle blew in Zenica, Coleman thought Wales’ first defeat of the qualifying campaign meant he would have to wait until the last Group B fixture on Tuesday to seal qualification for Euro 2016.
But moments later he was informed that Israel had suffered a shock home defeat against Cyprus that guaranteed Wales will play at an elite event for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
“When we come off losing 2-0 I thought we would have to go again but our secretary gave us the Israel result and it was complete elation,” said former Wales defender Coleman.
“It is a dream come true. All the players from my generation, and generations before, nearly got there and it was really tough. But this group has gone that extra yard. They deserve everything they have got. From the first game to tonight they have given me their all.”
Conte hoping to build Euro 2016 ‘war machine’
Italy coach Antonio Conte applauded his deployment of a rarely-used tactical system that could provide the basis for his “little war machine” when the Azzurri head to Euro 2016 next summer.
Italy, the beaten finalists at Euro 2012, qualified for next summer’s showpiece in France thanks to a one-sided 3-1 win over Azerbaijan in Baku complete with goals from Eder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Matteo Darmian.
The win left Italy top of Group H with a two-point cushion on Norway ahead of the sides’ final qualifier in Rome.
Conte pledged his side would “honour” their final group fixture on Tuesday, which could give him another opportunity to test the 4-2-4 system deployed to such devastating effect against Robert Prosinecki’s men on Saturday.
“It’s a system that is designed to get the ball forward to the front men,” said the Brazil-born forward, who gave Italy an 11th minute lead after running on to Marco Verratti’s superbly-timed long ball from midfield.
Elsewhere, Selcuk Inan and Hakan Calhanoglu handed Turkey a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Prague on Saturday, putting their team on the brink of securing a Euro 2016 play-off berth.
With the Czechs and Iceland already qualified from Group A, the result leaves Turkey two points ahead of the Netherlands in a fight for the third spot with a single game to play.
Walcott warns England against complacency
Theo Walcott has warned his England teammates that completing a historic 100% record in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign will count for nothing unless they mount a strong challenge at the finals.
Roy Hodgson’s side can become only the sixth team to win all of their matches in a European Championship qualifying campaign if they defeat Lithuania in their 10th and final Group E fixture at the LFF Stadium on Monday.
“We want to make it 10 on Monday night. It is a nice little thing to have. We want to win every game,” said Walcott while admitting that Hodgson’s men faced relatively weak opposition in the group and much sterner tests lie in wait in the finals in France.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.
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