- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

TOULOUSE, France (AP) - If Gareth Bale and his Wales teammates are to go far at the European Championship, they will need to do better with their possession of the ball.

That was the blunt assessment of Wales coach Chris Coleman as he prepared for his team’s final Group B match against Russia on Monday.

Wales beat Slovakia 2-1 in its opening game, before a below-par performance against England led to a 2-1 defeat in stoppage time. Bale scored with a long-distance free kick in both games, but the Real Madrid forward couldn’t lift his team when it counted against England.

“The game before that (against Slovakia), I thought we played some great football,” Coleman said Sunday. “Bale was involved in that. So, I think it was just the England game that in possession we were out of sorts. It’s my only gripe with the guys.”

Bale is by far Wales’ most gifted player. Along with his free kicks, he also combines bursts of speed with dribbling skills to beat opposing defenders. Unfortunately for Wales, he hasn’t been able to do that often enough at Euro 2016, and particularly in the last game.

Defending his player, Coleman said “that’s not just Bale. That was all of us. We never passed the ball like we were capable of doing.”

Playing in its first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, Wales will progress if it beats Russia, and would still have a very good chance of advancing with a draw.

“We’ve got a chance to progress where we weren’t expected to,” Coleman said. “So we’re in a fantastic position. Our players have played unbelievably well. They’re in a good mood. They have everything to look forward to.”

Even if Wales is knocked out of Euro 2016, Coleman said “there’s more to come from these players in the future and we’re going to learn from this tournament. It’s been an eye opener.”

Wales used to be “like a bounce team to practice against,” he said. “Not anymore.”

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