The Wales defender James Chester has challenged his team-mates to use the hurt of the stoppage-time defeat against England as motivation to overcome Russia and secure qualification for the Euro 2016 knock-out stages.
Chris Coleman’s team will be assured of at least second position in Group B if they defeat the Russians in Toulouse on Monday, but Welsh progression is now in the balance as a result of the loss to England in Lens.
Captain Ashley Williams, whose mis-directed clearance teed up Jamie Vardy to score the equaliser for England on Thursday, gathered the Welsh into a post-match huddle on the pitch in an effort to banish negativity and disappointment in the wake of Daniel Sturridge’s late winner.
And Chester admits that the message was simple – do not allow the defeat to steer Wales off course. “It was a disappointing ending against England, but it is still in our hands,” Chester said. “From what we have seen of Russia so far, we are confident we can get a result.
“The talk in the huddle was along those lines. We have come a long way, this team has been through some difficult times, so we still want to enjoy the occasion.”
With such emotion surrounding the encounter with England, Chester insists it is now crucial that the result does not overshadow Wales’s first major tournament since 1958. “You don’t like to lose that way but we knew the result would not define our tournament,” Chester said. “There is still a game to go and one we can get something from.
“It is a short turnaround, but when you have a bad result, the quicker the next game comes around the better. Hopefully we can take our frustrations out on Russia and get through. There is obviously huge disappointment to have conceded with just 20 or 30 seconds to go, but we have already spoken about getting it out of our systems quickly because this is still very much within our hands.”
Wales travel to Toulouse with midfielder Joe Ledley expected to be fit, despite a second-half injury which prompted initial fears of a recurrence of the broken leg sustained while playing for Crystal Palace last month.
Manager Coleman has no other injury worries and captain Williams, whose misdirected clearing header led to Jamie Vardy scoring England’s equaliser in Lens, insists Wales are capable of defeating the Russians to qualify.
“After we beat Slovakia we knew it was not the time to get too high because we had not accomplished anything yet and now is not the time to be getting down on ourselves,” Williams said. “The work we put in means we should not be too hard on ourselves.
“This is football and these things happen. We have done ever so well to get here, we have done well in this tournament in a tough group, so let’s stick together and move on. If you had offered this situation at the start of the tournament, three points from two games, we would have taken it.
“Losing to England was disappointing, but you cannot ask for more than it being in your own hands.
“We played poorly in Sweden before we arrived in France and we were a bit down starting the tournament and we spoke that if we do play badly or lose a game, as long as it is not the last game and we are out then do not get too down about it.
“You need to stay level because beating Slovakia did not put us in the next round and losing to England does not mean we are out.”
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