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Wales must stick to what they know against Serbia

Sunday 11th June 2017
Wales will face Serbia on June 11th - exactly a year to that date, Hal-Robson Kanu's late goal sent a whole nation into raptures. Wales must evoke this spirit to motivate themselves, but above all, must stick to what they know if they are to cling onto any hope of progression from their World Cup qualification group.

Chris Coleman's side's qualification hopes are in a very precarious position. Four draws from five games have left Coleman's men trailing front-runners Serbia and the Republic of Ireland. The Dragons were tipped as favourites, given their Euro 2016 success, but have found life after the summer tough, with teams wising up to their style and looking to pull off a scalp against a top-dog.

A draw away to Ireland in March was not what the Welsh wanted; it means they have to go to Serbia and get a point at the very least. Ideally, they need a win, to knock Serbia from their perch and kick-start some Welsh momentum. Coleman's team sit four points behind Serbia and a win would cut the gap down to just a point and breath some life into the sleeping Dragon. With home games against Austria and Ireland to finish off their campaign, the ball would once again be in the Welsh court to clinch either a playoff spot or top seed.
When Wales walk out into the searing heat of Serbia on Sunday they can expect to meet the same fiery nature from their opponents. The Serbs realise that this game is an opportunity to cement their authority on Group D and effectively dismiss Welsh qualification chances. Serbia will attack Wales, aggressively. On their own turf, they will be confident and arrogant in their play. Yet, this is when The Dragons thrive.

Wales must stick to what they know to thrive, however. They should not seek to match the Serbs' attacking play but should return to the game-plan that brought them so much success in their qualification last summer's championships and so much glory during the campaign.

Coleman is likely to set his team out in a 5-3-2 formation - that has not changed since the summer - but should return to the more disciplined interpretation of the formation rather than the adventurous one that Wales have endeavoured to implement recently. It simply has not worked, in fact, it has stagnated their attacking play; often Wales have looked confused when in the final third.

In Serbia, Wales need to sit back, absorb pressure and attack on the break. Wales' defence needs to embody the form they showed a year ago, replicate the passion and do-or-die spirit that encapsulated their whole journey. Bodies will have to be on the line, aggression must be key and organisation is paramount.

Wales went to Belguim and kept a clean sheet in the last qualification campaign, one the most potent attacks in Europe. There is no reason why they cannot keep a clean sheet in Belgrade. A clean sheet would, obviously, guarantee a draw. This would be an okay result, an acceptable point that keeps hopes alive. Yet, more than anything, a firm, a steady and competent defence would provide a platform from which Wales' creative talents can punish the Serbs.

Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, confident in the security of the defence, can exploit Serbia on the break, thread in Wales' forwards. This, naturally, is second in Wales' priority, but still important.

Wales must regain their identity. Hopefully, with this ideological reverse, they can steal all three points.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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