Chris Coleman eyes third place Group A finish for Wales
CHRIS Coleman has fixed his sights on third place in Group A of World Cup qualifying after Wales's goalless draw with Ireland on Wednesday.
Though not the most entertaining of matches, that friendly stalemate was the latest in a series of positive steps for Wales.
They previously recorded victories over Scotland and Austria before narrowly losing out to Croatia.
With hopes of reaching next summer's World Cup long since faded, Coleman has taken a pragmatic approach to the remaining qualifiers.
Wales still have to face Macedonia twice, either side of a home match with Serbia, before visiting Belgium in mid-October.
And the national boss insists those matches are crucial in the quest to finish third.
Wales entered their pool as bottom seeds, so that kind of finish can be seen as major progress.
"We're not going to qualify, that would take a miracle, but what we can do is finish third. We must finish third," said Coleman.
"We were sixth seeds going into it so that will be a big step forwards and that must be what we aim for.
"Ireland was a tough game for us, we expected that.
"With the way we play, we like to be patient and build from the back, they won't let you do that.
"That's one of the reasons why we wanted this game, it was a big test for us.
"In terms of us trying to escape teams putting pressure on us it won't come any harder than that and once or twice we got into difficulties."
Wales kept a clean sheet for the first time under Coleman in a game of few chances and little excitement.
There was also a low key atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium as football supporters had one eye on the big Premier League kick-off this weekend.
The timing of this round of friendly internationals has drawn much criticism from club managers across the country.
But Coleman stressed Wednesday night's run out was a productive exercise.
"It's good to keep a clean sheet," he added.
"I've been a domestic manager in the past and I've always looked at this game and thought 'why have we got this game when we've never even kicked a ball in the Premier League.'
"Now I'm on the other side of it and I think we needed it. We've not been together since March.
"At times tonight you could see that, we were rusty. They've had a lot more games than we have since March, but it's good for us to get together and have that time together.
"You never know what the mentality's going to be like because it's the start of the season.
"The players were up for the job and that's good because the next four games are huge."