Football: Cautious Yorath fighting shy of counting too many sheep: Trevor Haylett reports from Torshavn on Wales' attempt to save British face

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SO, astonishingly, it could be down to Wales, the perennial non- qualifiers of world football, to save face for the UK and rescue an American dream which increasingly for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has come to resemble the kind of nightmare from which you want to wake up and pretend had never happened.

To further their chances of escaping from Group 4 to next year's World Cup finals Terry Yorath's squad have journeyed on a wing and a prayer to this north Atlantic outpost and surely they will not take the domestic game to a new low by losing to the Faroe Isles this afternoon.

Defeat against a country which makes Norway seem seriously over-populated has to be unthinkable, doesn't it? Certainly that is being said back home by those who know little of the hazardous travel by air, ferry and by coach to arrive at a stadium where teams kick the ball one way and run in the opposite direction to prosper from the prevailing winds.

Yorath's breakfast briefing for reporters yesterday was interrupted by a telephone call from Wrexham Radio. The manager returned shaking his head to say: 'Their guy has just put to me that anything less than a 5-0 victory would be a disappointment, but it doesn't work like that. If we do the business in our remaining games, goal difference should not come into it and first and foremost I'm looking for two points.'

A campaign which seemed to be slipping away from Wales (and how many times has that scenario been repeated since the 1958 World Cup, their one qualification?) was spectacularly revived in March with an inspirational debut from Ryan Giggs helping to inflict Belgium's first defeat. Belgium will qualify, but that loss showed the peaks Wales could scale given a full-strength team. A subsequent draw in Ostrava without their best defenders, Eric Young and Mark Aizlewood, gained currency with Romania's defeat this week by the Representation of the Czechs and Slovaks.

'It was a great boost and now we must use that to our advantage and impress on the players that any slip here would be doubly disappointing,' said Yorath. 'It is up to us now and that is a nice position to be in. Qualification would mean so much to the players but also to everyone concerned with Welsh football, because you are talking about extra money and sponsorship coming in to fund all that we want to do at youth level.'

Still, no chickens or sheep should be counted just yet. It is not so much the opposition here, as proud as they are, but the conditions. Strong winds are forecast around the Svangaskaro Stadium and will play havoc with a pitch that was the result of adding 50 tons of dynamite to a mountain.

The surface, however, is quite acceptable. The grass was imported from Denmark, which seems strange because there is loads of it to spare on the islands, and even the rooftops are covered in the stuff.

Fotbolt-crazy, the people of the 18 islands (population, 47,000) have gone out of their way to make the stay as enjoyable as it could be in a godforsaken location and after an uncomfortable flight with the pilot of the Welsh aircraft needing two attempts to locate the air-strip.

Another delay, another headache, yet against a team of part- timers there can be no excuse for the visitors and they will be determined not to find themselves in the embarrassing position of a Faroese journalist who wagered on defeat for his country in their first European Championship game against Austria in 1990.

Astonishingly, the Faroes triumphed 1-0 for their greatest result in 60 years of international football. The forfeit for the unfortunate hack, he of little faith? A 30-mile hike across the hills in the nude.

FAROE ISLES (probable): Knudsen; Jakobsen, Johannesen, K Morkore, Justinussen, A Morkore, Nielsen, Dam, Hansen, Reynheim, Arge.

WALES (probable): Southall; Horne (both Everton), Bodin (Swindon), Blackmore (Manchester Utd), Young (Crystal Palace), Aizlewood (Bristol City), Speed (Leeds), Hughes, Giggs (both Manchester Utd), Rush (Liverpool), Saunders (Aston Villa).

Referee: V Shuk (Belorussia).