Closure or inspiration behind Wales alternative Paris ending?

Managers Wales National Team

A blog on Wales’ return to Paris as Chris Coleman’s future as manager remains in the balance.

Next month Wales will take on France in Paris as Chris Coleman’s team take to the field once again for the first time since their 2018 FIFA World Cup dream ended against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff.

The euphoria of reaching the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2016 was the inspiration behind the next qualifying campaign, and now the side have the opportunity to play out an alternative ending to that particular tournament. Defeat against Portugal in Lyon denied Wales the chance of taking on France in the final in Paris, and it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s countrymen that booked their place, and eventually triumphed, to become European champions.

The disappointment was made all the more painful by the fact that things could have been very different if Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies had not been suspended for that crucial game, and closure from what could have been has never really been achieved. Failing to make it to Russia, or to at least extend the dream to the play-offs, has brought back memories of that summer in France, and now the side have the chance for hollow redemption with the next generation next month.

This time around, Wales are expected to be boosted by the presence of Tom Lawrence, Ben Woodburn, David Brooks and other young emerging stars, and a strong performance against Didier Deschamps’ side in the French capital would be a timely boost for all concerned. This is a still time of positive optimism for Welsh international football, and it is a position of strength must be built upon.

The fixture is also something of a coup for the Football Association of Wales, especially when considering that star draw and team talisman Gareth Bale remains sidelined through injury. Regardless, the red wall are expected to head to Paris in their thousands for a match that will be as much as a boost for the fans following the failure of the last qualifying campaign as much as it will be to the team.

However, Coleman has emerged as a contender for the vacant Leicester City job, and while this is not a new situation, the speculation over his future following the failure of the last campaign puts him in a different position. He is yet to commit one way or the other, and while he still has plenty more to offer his country, the temptation to return to club management in the Premier League could prove too strong.

Reports are that he will be in charge of the national team for the friendly in Paris, and maybe it is that return to the scene of his greatest triumph that will inspire a decision to stay with the side for the duration of a further qualifying campaign. There is no doubt that the summer of 2016 provided Welsh football with its finest hour, and a return will no doubt spark positive memories of the magic that can happen as a result of taking Wales to the finals of a major tournament.

The next European Championships do not come around until 2020, but the new UEFA Nations League that begins next September offers an additional international experience, and Coleman will feel as if he has some unfinished business with this side. The double suspension against Portugal left unanswered questions about just how far Wales could have gone with the spirit and momentum that was in their favour at the time.

The friendly against France will not have a direct influence on whatever decision Coleman makes about his future, but it is the environment of returning to France with the unwavering support of thousands of Welsh fans that could swing the outcome the way that the vast majority of fans hope it will. Coleman could have left his position after the finals last summer, but felt that there was more to come from his team, and that has not changed.

In addition, Coleman has recently been quoted as saying that for a nation such as Wales, qualifying for the finals of two out of three major tournaments should be a realistic target, and if he can lead this young, talented and still developing side to the 2020 finals then he will have achieved all that he can expect to as he closes in on a decade in what he still considers to be his dream job.

It was in Paris that Wales reached the quarter finals of EURO 2016 with victory over Northern Ireland, and Coleman will have fond memories of the celebrations that followed. Next month, he will return with his backroom staff, players and the red wall once again fully behind him, and it is a position that he will find difficult to voluntarily leave behind after achieving redemption from the difficult early years of his tenure.