LILLE: Captain Ashley Williams will be fit, after all, to lead surprise quarter-finalists Wales in their Euro 2016 quarter-final against Belgium in Lille.
Williams suffered a shoulder injury in a collision with team-mate Jonathan Williams in the closing stages of last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland in the second round.
The Swansea City defender has been outstanding in Wales’ progress, operating in the central role in the back three between James Chester and Ben Davies.
Manager Chris Coleman said: “The medical team have done a fantastic job, getting him ready and getting him in shape. I’m just relieved. I said 24 hours after the game that would be the period we needed to concentrate.
“If he had a bad reaction it would have been difficult, but It’s great news for us that he will be available. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but you need leaders in your side. When you have a strong dressing room you need a strong character to lead it, and Ash is that.”
Belgium have absence issues of their own with Thomas Vermaelen suspended and Jan Vertonghen ruled out with what may turn out to be a serious ankle injury suffered in training.
Coleman had enlisted the help of some members of the Wales team who reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup to try to inspire his players.
He said: “We had a good week training in Portugal before we came out here and one of the players from the ’58 team came out and had a chat with some of the boys,” said Coleman.
“We we were talking about the 1958 experience they had.
“In those days, when players arrived back off the train they were asked whether they’d been on holiday because nobody knew they’d been at the World Cup.
“We’re sure it meant the same to them as to us now, but we have to say we don’t need to ham this game up.
“We know what’s at stake, we know we’ve earned it, and it’s a great place to be. Since the 1958 quarter-final, we have to put this down as the biggest game our country’s been involved in.”
The French city of Lille is just a few miles from the Belgian border and Wales fans will be heavily outnumbered.
But Coleman said: “We’ll enjoy it when we perform and we put the work in. We’ve done that so far. It’s not a feeling that Wales can’t lose, they weren’t meant to be here in the quarter-final, we’re underdogs.
“It’s not the way we see it. It’s a huge challenge, but just another one in a line of them we’ve already met.”