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Wales coach Coleman unconcerned by recent defeats

Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Wales Training - COSEC Stadium, Dinard - 9/6/16 - Wales' manager Chris Coleman during training REUTERS/Carl Recine
Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Wales Training - COSEC Stadium, Dinard - 9/6/16 - Wales' manager Chris Coleman during training REUTERS/Carl Recine

By Steve Tongue

BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - Wales coach Chris Coleman believes Slovakia would be unwise to dwell on his team's poor form ahead of their opening Euro 2016 Group B match on Saturday.

Since the qualification campaign finished in October, the Welsh have lost three friendlies and drawn one.

Coleman, a national hero after leading the squad to their first tournament finals since 1958, told a news conference on Friday, his 46th birthday, that only the 3-0 defeat by Sweden earlier this week caused him any concern.

"In all the games since the last campaign game we didn't have the strongest squad or strongest team available," he said.

"There's only one game we didn't perform in, which was Sweden.

"Physically we weren't ready because some of the lads hadn't played for a long time so I'm not worried about a loss of form.

I've no doubt and no fear about the players here."

Three players who missed the Sweden game are all available again and although two of them, Joe Ledley and Joe Allen, could start as the defensive midfielders, Coleman hinted that the former, who fractured his leg five weeks ago, was likely to be held back.

"Joe has done an unbelievable job to get where he is," the coach said. "Physically and mentally he's shown what he's made of."

Hal Robson-Kanu, also missing in Stockholm, is hoping to start as the main striker in a system that normally includes three central defenders and two wing backs.

Gareth Bale, the linchpin of the squad, was predictably the subject of a few questions.

"When you become the most expensive player in the world, playing for Real Madrid and you've won two Champions Leagues in three years, it's normal for the opposition to pay him a lot of attention and they need to," said Coleman of Bale.

"We're used to it and he's used to it. Playing where he does, he's used to all the spotlight and used to having the eyes of the world on him and everything he does on and off the pitch."

Coleman, once a robust defender who won 32 Welsh caps, believes the stricter refereeing at Euro 2016 will benefit his squad.

"Our players are used to a certain type of football (in Britain)," he said. "Referees are more lenient than in this tournament...hopefully Bale will get the protection he deserves."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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