Wales created history in France during their Euro 2016 adventure but they have to put the memories behind them to avoid facing the harsh reality of international football once more.
There’s little doubt every Welsh football fan in the country is still recalling the Euro 2016 experience in their mind and the players who made it happen must be going through the same thing. What Wales did across June and July was truly marvellous but it’s now time to temporarily forget the fairy tale that was Euro 2016.
Chris Coleman and his men have been drawn into a tough World Cup Qualifying group with Austria, Republic of Ireland and Serbia to compete with and don’t forget, only the group winner is guaranteed a place in Russia.
Wales will have to be in extraordinary form over the course of the next 13 months to come out on top of this group. Currently, Wales will fear no one after conquering the majority of Europe during the summer but away trips to Serbia, Austria and even Ireland will be very difficult to negotiate.
International football takes no prisoners and the Netherlands found that out during the Euro 2016 Qualifiers, just one eye off the ball cost them a spot at the European Championships for the first time since 1984.
If a national team with pedigree like Netherlands can fail to qualify with just the smallest of hiccups then Wales, despite possessing superstar Gareth Bale, will be hung out to dry if they think they’re due any favours from their Euro 2016 exploits.
The fans must also play their part – Euro 2016 was a special experience for supporters and not one they’ll be able to put at the back of their mind like the players but they must try to see this campaign as a new start.
It may take Wales a couple of games to hit top gear again and it’s important to remember, one slip-up shouldn’t send the supporters into the default disaster mode, that feeling of failure which has been forced upon them for many of the last 50 years.
The Welsh setup doesn’t need telling there’s no easy games in international football, there have been enough harrowing defeats to know that but with the opportunity to create even more history during the next 13 months, this is no time for complacency, not even with the ‘golden generation’ wearing the shirt.
Wales are more than capable of conquering this difficult qualifying group but one of the biggest challenges they’ll face, is getting themselves into the right mindset. Coleman’s men are no longer the underdog and they must find a way to deal with that pressure.
It’s going to be another long-drawn-out qualification campaign but with the right attitude, the team spirit we’ve come to know and the incredible determination usually displayed by this set of players, this Welsh team can secure a spot in the World Cup in 2018 and some achievement that would be.