Wales manager Chris Coleman targeting third place in World Cup qualifying group A
CHRIS Coleman is targeting a third-place Group A finish as Wales set their sights beyond the current World Cup qualifying campaign.
With four games to go, Welsh hopes of reaching Brazil next summer have already been dashed.
Defeats to Belgium, Serbia and Croatia twice have left Coleman's side severely off the pace, with their only victories coming in a double triumph over struggling Scotland.
Wales are ten points adrift of Croatia and Belgium, the unbeaten joint-pool leaders, who are in a two-way shootout for the automatic qualification and play-off places.
Serbia also sit ahead of Wales, but are only a point better off than the side they thrashed 6-1 in Novi Sad back in September.
With no realistic chance of progressing from the group, Coleman is now focusing on what lies over the horizon.
Wales's next opportunity to end their wait of more than half a century to reach a major tournament comes when the Euro 2016 qualifiers begin in just over a year's time.
And the former Swansea City boss has urged his side to put themselves in as strong a position as possible to plot a way out of their group and into the France finals.
If Wales can leapfrog Serbia and seal third place, they will bank a greater number of coefficiency points, helping their seeding when it comes to the Euros' pool draw.
The higher Wales's seeding the more lesser-ranked teams they will be grouped with.
"I have no doubt that we are moving in the right direction and a strong finish in the group — both at home and away to Macedonia and Belgium — can give us the chance of a third-place finish," said Coleman.
"That would be a great reward for the hard work that everyone has put in over the last 18 months."
Next up for Wales is a friendly against Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium on August 14 (7.45).
That venue will also stage the final two home World Cup qualifiers, when Serbia visit on Tuesday, September 10, and Macedonia play there on Friday, October 11. Both matches start at 7.45.
"The players enjoy the atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium and the support has been fantastic," added Coleman.
Before those fixtures, Wales travel to Macedonia on Friday, September 6. The campaign concludes on Tuesday, October 16 with a trip to Belgium.