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Comment & Analysis

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September 1 2003

Battered in Belgrade

Mark Hughes and Wales suffer Euro 2004 set back in Serbia

By Nick Byrne Sports Writer THE PROSPECTS for Wales Euro 2004 qualification campaign had looked good. They now go into the most crucial of matches of their history with some doubts hanging over them. After losing 1-0 away to Serbia and Montenegro, Mark Hughes and his men face a tricky month with three crucial games. The side have suffered another blow in their preparations for the crucial away game against the mighty Italians and the home tie versus Finland with Craig Bellamy becoming the latest player to join John Hartson and Andy Melville as injury doubts. If Wales are to have any chance of getting something in Milan, Hartson s name needs to be on the teamsheet. In Belgrade, Nathan Blake, gave his all but struggled to make any sort

of impact, failing to hold the ball long enough for Giggs, Bellamy and co to join in the attack. Easy as it is to look back and criticise, it s hard to fathom why Hughes left Blake toiling alone for so long up front. It was only after going a goal behind that Wales started to play with the kind of passion that has served them so well in the competition. An indication of the task Wales face was shown when Italy beat World Cup finalists Germany 1-0 in Stuttgart. Giovanni Trappatoni, Italy s coach was understandably delighted at Wales s loss, we had important news from Belgrade, now it is our job to go to Milan and win against Wa l e s w e have to take another step forward against Wales. Italy have encountered their own injury setback with Roma captain Francesco Totti doubtful for the game. With striking options that include

Vieri, del Piero, Montella and Delvecchio, the Azzurri frontline is sure to be a handful. Despite the daunting prospect of facing one of the world s footballing superpowers in the San Siro, Ryan

“We beat Italy once and we can beat them again.”

Ryan Giggs Giggs insists Wales must take confidence from their 2-1 win over the Italians last October. We beat Italy once and we can beat them again. They will remember and be afraid of what they faced at the Millennium Stadium and hopefully we can put on another performance like that, said the Wales winger. We frightened

them to death in that game, so if we have that attitude again we can do the same. We have three games to go and we still have a great chance. I think we can still win the group, we have to believe that added the Manchester United star. After the Milan game, Wales close their qualifying campaign with home matches against Finland and Serbia and Montenegro. If they fail to capitalise on their excellent start they could be facing the likes of Holland, Turkey or even England in the lottery of the play-offs. Italy face a trip to a rejuvenated Serbia followed by what should be an easy home tie against Azerbaijan. It was Alex Ferguson who once claimed that the mark of a great team is shown in their reaction to defeat. It is up to one of his prot g s to prove that the Wales of now can live up to the Wales of 1958 and ensure their status as a great Wales side.

Bellamy will be a massive loss

City charge continues Europe is next target for ambitious Sam By Riath Al-Samarrai Sports Ed. CHAMPAGNE, STREET parties and hangovers have all come and passed over the grounds of Ninian Park Stadium since Andy Campbell’s play-off winner last May. But now the fun stops and the Division One adventure begins. Ambitious Bluebirds supremo Sam Hammam has bankrolled the Welsh club s return to the first Division after an absence of 18 years, and sees this promotion as merely a stepping stone to a big future. We have the ability as a club to compete with the best in Europe and that is my only interest said the outspoken Lebanese saviour who has no intention of letting the sleeping giant of British football lay dormant any longer. Failure at the play-off stage in 2002 halted the City charge through the divisions and though the ghost was emphatically laid to rest in the Millennium Stadium last season with Campbell s late strike, Hammam is vocal in his desires for the Welsh club to continue progressing. If we are not in the Premiership within the next few years where we are challenging for Europe then we are not doing the business and having plunged £150million into a new 60,000 capacity stadium, fans favourite Sam is offering more than hollow words. Rotherham s Alan Lee is the latest recruit for Lennie Lawrence s promotion army. The £850,000 striker is linking up with John Robinson and Tony Vidmar as key weapons for the Bluebirds promotion assault. But a tough time was expected on the Blues return to the big-time, and promptly delivered with the Welshmen suffering a beleaguered start on their arrival in the upper echelons of league

football A disappointing goalless draw away at Rotherham before a 2-0 defeat to Bradford issued a stern reminder to the valley boys that the comfort zone of Division Two is long gone. However, a fantastic 2-1 mid-week victory over Nottingham Forest, followed up by Lee s first strike in the 41 demolition of Derby County has allowed a genuine sense of optimism to spread among the Ninian Park faithful. Ninian Park has long been the intimidating fortress of Cardiff City. The beating heart of the Bluebirds, it has installed terror and fear in opponents even when the home side has generated little of either on the pitch. And though the concrete and corrugated iron haven is soon to be reduced to rubble, the stadium that housed the FA Cup on it s only stay outside England in 1927 is indestructible in memories. But as the ever astute Hammam pointed out football is not played in the past, and with a new squad, stadium and burning desire supported by an open cheque-book, Cardiff City may well have an even brighter future.

Hammam demands success

gair rhydd - Issue 742  
gair rhydd - Issue 742  

gair rhydd - Issue 742