Chris Coleman says Wales must embrace the “fantastic pressure” of a first major quarter-final since the World Cup in 1958.
A 1-0 win over Northern Ireland sealed Wales’ spot in the last eight of Euro 2016 and a meeting with Belgium in Lille on Friday.
Their only previous visit to this stage of a major tournament was in the World Cup nearly 60 years ago, where they were knocked out by eventual winners Brazil thanks to a goal from Pele.
With media scrutiny at home and abroad reaching new heights, Coleman wants his players to consider Belgium just one more challenge, despite it being their biggest game in decades.
“Before we flew out, we went to Portugal for a week,” he said. “One of the players from the ’58 team came up and had a chat, we were talking about the 1958 experience at the World Cup. When they arrived back in Swansea, they were asked if they had been on holiday – nobody knew about the World Cup, but I’m quite sure it meant a lot to them like it does to this lot.
“We are where we are and the players have earned it, it’s fantastic pressure, positive pressure they have earned, they have experienced a different kind of pressure before. Since that 1958 game this is the biggest game our country has been involved in and that’s great to have that kind of pressure.
“People have already said Wales can’t lose because we are already in the quarter-finals, but this is another big test, a huge challenge, another in the line of challenges we have already met.
“The players have been fantastic; now we want to go on and do more of the things that got is in this situation in the first place. The pressure is on us to keep performing.”
Wales took four points from Belgium during qualifying for Euro 2016, but Coleman says his side must forget about their previous encounters and go for the win “with our lives”.
“We have played them four times over the last few years, we know them, they know us,” he said. “But we need to be Wales, it’s all about us, we know Belgium are a good side but no dramas – we go about our business as we always do.
“Belgium won’t change what they do – if you are as good as Belgium, why would you change? They are a very offensive team, but if you look at the stats, they are deemed as an offensive team and we are deemed as a defensive team, but they have scored eight and we have scored seven.
“They play with pace, imagination and power. They are a good team. When it’s time to defend we will defend with our lives, when it’s time to attack we will attack with our lives.
“We respect them, they are a good team, but we have given them some good games before and we will again.”