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Williams focused on Israel win as skipper reaches milestone

Wales captain Ashley Williams has said he has given little thought to winning his 50th cap this afternoon - with picking up Euro 2016 qualifying points the only thing on his mind.

Williams in training for Wales ahead of the Israel clash. Credit: PA

The 30-year-old centre back reaches the half century mark after making his debut in a 2-0 win over Luxembourg in 2008.

Since then Williams has become an established Premier League defender at Swansea and Wales, now under the guidance of Chris Coleman, are hoping o the European Championship finals in France next year after making an unbeaten start to their qualifying campaign

That run will be tested against Group B leaders Israel on Saturday but Williams insists Wales are ready for the challenge on a night when he reaches his own personal milestone.

"I am obviously aware it is my 50th (cap) but I will enjoy it after the game. This is one of the biggest games for me, alongside my debut and getting the captaincy for the first time, but that is something for after the game. I've just been concentrating on the game and getting the job done. That's been my focus and motivation this week and the whole squad is relaxed because we have confidence in what we are doing."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain
Williams has been in good form for Swansea in recent weeks. Credit: PA

Williams will come up against one of the form strikers in Euro 2016 qualifying at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.

Omer Damari has five goals in qualifying so far and shares the honour of being joint top-scorer in qualifying with England striker Danny Welbeck.

"They are clever and sharp players and they have got goals in this campaign. I know my unit has to be tight and we will need to be resolute and stick to the task, but we are right up for it. We are expecting a hostile atmosphere but I would rather that than playing somewhere half-empty. There is nothing better when it is hostile because those are the nights you remember."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain

Wales' qualification hopes were buoyed by picking up a point away to group favourites Belgium in November.

It means they have eight points after four games, one shy of Israel who have won their three matches and play Belgium at home on Tuesday, and Williams admits Wales have to keep picking up points on the road.

"It will be difficult but we do need to get points away from home, it is not enough to win at home. We have gone into every game looking for the win and this will be no different."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain

Coleman: Wales ready for hostile Israeli atmosphere

Wales manager Chris Coleman says his players can cope with any hostile atmosphere as his side travel to Haifa for their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with Israel.

Coleman taking training before Wales' trip to Israel. Credit: PA

There will be a 30,000-plus capacity crowd at the Sammy Ofer Stadium for the match which pits Group B's front-runners together and Israel coach Eli Guttman has warned Wales to expect a special atmosphere.

But Coleman says that will not be a problem for Gareth Bale and company who are used to playing in front of big crowds both at home and abroad.

"...a lot of our guys play In the Premier League in front of crowds of 50,000 and 60,000 and it does not get bigger than that. We are a long away from home, but so what? We are looking forward to the atmosphere and our guys are used to playing top international players week-in and week-out."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager
Coleman says Wales' big name players are used to hostile atmospheres. Credit: PA

Israel lead the way in the group after winning their opening three games while unbeaten Wales lie second after picking up eight points from four games.

Coleman's side held group favourites Belgium in Brussels in November and there is a growing feeling in Wales that the current group of players can end the country's long wait to qualify for a major tournament.

"We cannot come back without anything. That is not the stage we are at. We know what we are up against and they will know that about us. Their game against Belgium on Tuesday will not exist for them, they are only thinking about us and that is not our business. This game is about us and I say that not in an arrogant way. We are getting it right and we have to continue to do that, and once we do that I will be happy. If we get the performance right then hopefully the result will follow."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager


Coleman reveals peace talks with Collins ahead of qualifier

Wales boss Chris Coleman has admitted he and defender James Collins met in a busy coffee shop in Cardiff for peace talks - so things didn't turn ugly.

James Collins training yesterday with the Welsh team. Credit: PA

The West Ham centre-back and Coleman fell out prior to a World Cup qualifier against Serbia in 2013, with the 31-year-old contradicting Coleman's claims that he had turned down the chance to join the national team as a late call-up.

That spat led to a period out in the international wilderness, but with James Chester sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Collins is now set to win his 45th cap in Saturday's crunch tie with Group B leaders Israel.

"We had a coffee in the middle of St David's Shopping Centre so it could not kick off! There were too many people around so we had to be civil. We had our spat, but I have known him since he was a kid and always liked him, and when he has been with us he has been right in the middle of everything. His presence and personality are going to be very important going forward."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager
Chris Coleman in talks with coach Kit Symons. Credit: PA

Collins has had to bide his time to regain his place at the heart of the Wales defence with Chester having developed an excellent understanding with skipper Ashley Williams since making his international debut last summer.

The 31-year-old has yet to feature in a campaign which sees Wales unbeaten after four games and within a point of the Israelis.

"This is an opportunity for 'Ginge' now. He was brilliant in the last camp, as were Danny Gabbidon and Sam Ricketts who did not play but were great round the dressing room in Brussels. That is great for the younger guys because it is good to have advice from senior players. 'Ginge' likes the challenge and the atmosphere we will find ourselves in, it will be a dogfight which he enjoys."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager

Robert Earnshaw retires from international football

Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw has announced his retirement from international football.

He was renowned for his somersault goal-scoring celebrations Credit: PA

The 33 year old scored 16 goals for Wales, and has won 58 caps.

It comes after he signed a one-year deal for Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps.

Earnshaw is joint sixth on Wales' all-time list of scorers with Cliff Jones and Mark Hughes.

It has been a dream come true to have the opportunity to walk out in front of the whole nation and represent Wales in so many important games.

I am honoured and proud to play for my country for over a decade. I am also extremely thankful for the support I've received over the years from all my Welsh team-mates, coaches and staff and will be forever grateful because I know I've been in a position that millions dream of.

I gave it my all in every minute and shared all the jubilations of scoring goals with the people of Wales. The pleasure has truly been all mine.

– Robert Earnshaw

Originally from Zambia, Earnshaw made his name at Cardiff after growing up in Caerphilly.

On the international front he earned cult status by netting a debut winner against Germany in 2002, and scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory over Scotland nearly two years later.

Team mates back Bale after criticism

Gareth Bale's Wales team mates say he is unfazed by criticism levelled at him in Spain.

All smiles: Bale in training for the national side earlier. Credit: PA

The world's most expensive player has been the centre of supporters anger in recent weeks following what some have perceived as a run of under par performances leading up to Sunday's 2-1 El Clasico defeat to Barcelona.

Bale was the target of fans anger following Sunday's game after having a goal disallowed in an otherwise quiet performance.

However his Wales team mates have rallied to his support saying their is no sign of a lack of confidence ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016 qualification clash with Israel.

Bale all smiles as he trains for Wales ahead of qualifier

Gareth Bale put any domestic problems at Real Madrid to one side as he took to training in Cardiff today, ahead of Wales' crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with Israel this weekend.

Bale in good spirits at Wales' training ground in Cardiff this morning. Credit: ITV Wales News

The winger from Whitchurch was heavily criticised for his performance in Madrid's 2-1 defeat to arch rivals Barcelona on Sunday - so much so fans reportedly attacked his car as he left the club's training ground.

But Bale cut a much happier figure as he joined up with the national side, who stand a genuine chance of qualifying for next year's tournament in France.

Manager Chris Coleman has named a strong squad to take on Israel in Haifa on Saturday, with Bale named alongside Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey and Swansea centre-back Ashley Williams.

Wales are a point and a place behind Group B leaders Israel and will look to top the group come the end of the weekend.


Cardiff City beat Birmingham 2-0 to continue strong run

Cardiff City beat Birmingham City 2-0 at home this afternoon, to extend their unbeaten run in the Championship to three games.

Half-time substitute Eoin Doyle made a difference for the Bluebirds, scoring their first, and then winning a penalty, which was converted by Peter Whittingham.

Swansea City claim three points against Aston Villa

Credit: PA Images

Swansea City have beaten Aston Villa away in the Premier League after a late goal from Bafetimbi Gomis.

It was goalless for much of the game until the 87th minute when Gomis broke the deadlock after a cross from Jefferson Montero.

Swansea move to eighth position in the Premier League.

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