Tribute to Gary Speed’s contribution as Wales get streetwise for semi-final

Contribution to Wales' success: the late Gary Speed . Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.
Contribution to Wales' success: the late Gary Speed . Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.
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Chris Coleman has told Portugal to expect a “streetwise” Wales in their Euro 2016 semi-final.

Portugal have been accused of gamesmanship in the past, with Iceland boss Lars Lagerback pointing the finger at the Real Madrid pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe earlier in the tournament.

Lagerback said before his side’s group game against the nation: “Portugal has one of the best players in the world in Cristiano, but he is also an excellent actor.

“In the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid we also saw the actions of someone who could be in Hollywood. I mean Pepe.”

But Wales boss Coleman feels his players have grown up on the international stage and will not be distracted.

“At this level games are decided in a second, a turnover, the ball changes hands, somebody makes the wrong decision,” Coleman said ahead of the Lyon showdown: “Anything you need to do to stay in the game, do it. It’s streetwise, football smart. ”

* Wales captain Ashley Williams feels the late Gary Speed, the former Sheffield United player and manager, would be proud of the team’s achievement in reaching the semi-final.

Speed put in motion the changes leading to the greatest moment in Welsh football history before his untimely death in November 2011 at the age of 42.

And Williams says he considered Speed’s legacy ahead of the semi-final against Portugal when reading ‘TogetherStronger’, the book written by Welsh journalist Chris Wathan which charts the recent history of the Wales football team.

“I was thinking about him (Speed) on the plane coming over,” said Williams.

“Reading Chris Wathan’s book brought it back to me at the time.

“My thought coming in was I hope he’d be proud of us. He saw us grow up.

“He’s always in the back of our minds. When we achieve something, we think about him.”

Wales must cope in Lyon without suspended pair Aaron Ramsey, one of the players of the tournament with a goal and four assists, and defender Ben Davies.

But Williams feels Wales are well covered in those areas, whoever manager Chris Coleman calls up.

“The strength is in the squad, not just the team,” said Williams.

“The 23 men who are there. Whoever the gaffer picks will do the job.

“We’re disappointed for them, but it gives two others a chance to experience the Euros.

“They’ll fill the slots as good as the boys who went out.”

Cristiano Ronaldo presents the greatest threat to Wales meeting either Germany or France in the Paris final on Sunday.

But Williams said of the Real Madrid star: “He’s one of the greatest players in the world, but they have other weapons in their team.

“We are not obsessing over that.

“We’ll try and nullify them as a team, as we have all tournament.”