I wouldn't swap Gareth Bale for anyone – even Wayne Rooney, says Chris Coleman

Manager may give his match-winning winger licence to roam tonight but demands protection

Chris Coleman, the Wales manager, dismisses claims that his side are a one-man team – that man being the sensational Gareth Bale – but concedes that he would not swap the Tottenham winger for any other player in Britain at present.

Bale scored a stunning late double in a dramatic win over Scotland last Friday to reignite Wales's 2014 World Cup campaign. It also extended his remarkable record of having scored Wales's last five goals in qualifying matches going back over a year.

Bale and Wales face a tough task against Croatia in Osijek tonight, but the manager is putting his faith in his star winger who he says is currently the shining light among the British national teams, including England's Wayne Rooney.

Coleman said: "I wouldn't swap him for anyone else, to be fair. Anyone can see when he's got the ball he's devastating. He's a terrific player. His work-rate is excellent, he comes away with Wales and plays with passion and incredible ability. You'd be crazy to try and swap him.

"He's scored all our goals [in this campaign] so far and I know people are talking about him. He's a show-stopper and people pay money to come and watch him play –but that performance on Friday wasn't just Baley. He got the goals, but there were some terrific performances."

Wales, back in the Balkans just a month on from their 6-1 humiliation to Serbia, are without the injured Craig Bellamy and the suspended Aaron Ramsey. That puts even more attacking onus on Bale, who has scored six times in his last seven appearances for his country, and Coleman admits he is tempted to give his winger a free rein in the crunch Group A showdown. "We've got options with Gareth," says Coleman. "He can be devastating when he plays out wide and cuts inside his full-back. But it's always an option to play him in the centre. We're missing Aaron at the wrong time really.

"Gareth knows where he can hurt the opposition. When you have good players you don't want to pigeon-hole them. Look where he got the winning goal [against Scotland] from – yet he was playing on the right side for us. But when he runs through the middle he can cause other teams problems."

Bale has twice been at the centre of diving controversies for club and country in the last fortnight. But Coleman reckons his flying winger is a marked man and wants the 23-year-old to receive protection from the Romanian referee Alexandru Dan Tudor in Croatia's fourth largest city.

"Every opposition will work on how they are going to stop him," said Coleman. "That's how I'd be thinking if I was the opposition. Gareth didn't get the protection he needed against Belgium. There is a flip side that players like Baley can get kicked from pillar to post so you need strong referees.

"When you have a special player like we have in Baley, referees have to be aware that teams will try and stop him by hook or by crook."

Match facts

Probable teams:

Croatia: PLETIKOSA, STRINIC, CORLUKA*, SIMUNIC*, SRNA*, RAKITIC, MODRIC*, KRANJCAR*, PERISIC, MANDZUKIC, JELAVIC*

Wales: PRICE, DAVIES, WILLIAMS*, BLAKE*, GUNTER, LEDLEY, VAUGHAN, ALLEN*, KING, BALE*, MORISON

*One booking from a suspension

KO 7pm, Gradski Stadium. TV Sky Sports 2. Referee A Tudor (Rom). Odds: Cro 2-7 D 4-1 Wal 10-1. Suspended: Croa Vukojevic. Wales Collins, Ramsey

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam