Chris Coleman has told his Wales players that the time has come to look forward, rather than back, and challenged his team to prove they deserve to be regarded as a golden generation, starting with Friday's opening World Cup qualifier against Belgium in Cardiff.

The Wales manager took over the job in traumatic circumstances, following the sudden death of Gary Speed last November, and he made it clear that by urging the players to think of the future, he was in no way being disrespectful to the loss of a man that he regarded as one of his closest friends in football. Coleman does, however, feel that a new qualification campaign represents a fresh start for everybody and should be seen as an opportunity for a Welsh team that has been heralded because of the emergence of exciting young players, such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, to deliver.

"We have found ourselves in a situation we are not used to and nobody saw that coming, so it's been a difficult time for everybody," Coleman said."We've got to be as professional as we can and we can't keep looking over our shoulder into the past. Already people are talking about a golden generation of players. I'll agree with that when we do the business; that's when it will be a golden generation of players.

"We've haven't done anything, we haven't qualified. You can win friendlies and you can win matches in qualifying groups, the last two or three, which is an achievement in itself. But we've never qualified and that's what we'll be judged on and that's what we've got to do. So forget looking behind us; we've got to look forward, end of story. I don't mean that in a cold way. I think everybody knows what my relationship was with Gary. But we've got to look forward and push on, that's what Speedo would want us to do, to win and to be successful."

Coleman's preparations have been hampered by injuries to a number of players, most significantly Craig Bellamy and Neil Taylor, leaving Wales short on the left-hand side and stacking the odds strongly in favour of an experienced and hugely talented Belgian team. "We've got good players and we've got to bring it on the night, and not concern ourselves us too much about how good Belgium are," Coleman said. "We've got to go into it with confidence, belief and courage. Anything can happen in 90 minutes and we've got enough to get a result."

Wales 4-3-3 Myhill; Gunter, Williams, Collins, Matthews; Allen, Ramsey, Edwards; Bale, Morison, Robson-Kanu

Belgium 4-1-4-1 Courtois; Gillet, Vermaelen, Kompany, Vertonghen; Defour; Mirallas, Witsel, Fellaini, Dembélé; Hazard