Depleted Wales try to defy the odds

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The Independent Online
When Bobby Gould, the Wales manager, put on the tape of Germany's last match he saw something that he described as frightening. The fact that the tape was going at twice the normal speed did not help, but even when that fault was remedied the sight was only slightly less scary.

Although the Germans have not always fired at the optimum rate during their European Championship qualifying campaign - notably last April when they drew 1-1 with Wales in Dusseldorf - they did on Sunday when they slaughtered Moldova 6-1. On Gould's tape, even when Jurgen Klinsmann and company got slower the goals still accumulated rapidly.

"It was recorded on fast forward wind," he said. "Everyone was moving at 200mph. Frightening. We haven't shown the players any of it yet, but we might just show them the Moldovan goal so they can go out with PMA - positive mental attitude."

The fact that Wales can leave the dressing-room at Cardiff Arms Park tonight with anything but an inferiority complex is a compliment to Gould who, if nothing else, has brushed away the gloom that descended on the squad during Mike Smith's time in charge. That was achieved with a win over Moldova last month, their first success in a year, but beating Germany is a different matter.

Gould equated the prospect to Wimbledon's FA Cup final win over Liverpool in 1988. "It would be up there with the finest moment of my managerial career," he said. "Like winning the lottery, you couldn't imagine it until it happened."

As with the lottery, the odds of winning are not great. Wales are without six players, including the injured Ian Rush and Mark Hughes, and it will be an unfamiliar line-up in terms of personnel and position. Steve Jenkins, of Swansea, will make his debut while Mark Bowen, Nathan Blake and Gary Speed fill roles they normally leave to others at club level in a 3-5- 2 formation that will rely for forward impetus on swift breaks by Ryan Giggs and Dean Saunders.

Bowen will play at sweeper, a position he comfortably filled for Norwich against Internazionale in the Uefa Cup two years ago, while Speed will operate as a wing back on the left. The most surprising change, however, is of Blake, a striker with eight goals this season for Sheffield United, who becomes a midfield player.

Gould wanted to buy Blake when he was manager at Coventry and, as a consequence, is more aware of his adaptability than most. "I've seen him play centre- back, centre-forward, left wing and now midfield," he said.

"If Nathan gets hold of his ability and takes it in the right direction he could be something a lot of people would enthuse about. I'd like to lock him in a room with Ryan Giggs for a week and let him learn how that young man performs under pressure week in, week out."

Blake is more likely to be locked in a midfield test of skills where Thomas Hassler and Dieter Eilts will probably throw away the key. The Germans have, not surprisingly, named the same side that beat Moldova with Klinsmann as captain.

The former Tottenham player missed a number of chances on Sunday, including a second-half penalty which, on the basis of lightning not striking in the same place twice, is probably ominous for Wales. "If you move around a lot as a striker," the German said of English-style defences yesterday, "that creates a lot of confusion."

WALES (3-5-2): Southall (Everton); Symons (Manchester United), Bowen (Norwich), Melville (Sunderland); Jenkins (Swansea), Blake (Sheffield United), Horne (Everton), Pembridge (Sheffield Wednesday), Speed (Leeds); Giggs (Manchester United), Saunders (Galatasaray).

GERMANY: Kopke (Eintracht Frankfurt); Babbel, Ziege (both Bayern Munich), Freund (Borussia Dortmund), Helmer (Bayern Munich), Sammer, Moller (both Borussia Dortmund), Eilts (Werder Bremen), Klinsmann (Bayern Munich), Hassler (Karlsruhe), Herrlich (Borussia Dortmund).

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