Football: Giggs digs in for the gig of a lifetime

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The Independent Online
WALES takes pride in its tradition of passionate oratory, but Terry Yorath will tonight eschew the customary exhortations before his team step into an Arms Park sound-trap to contest a place in the World Cup finals with Romania.

On the biggest occasion in Welsh football history - victory by a two-goal margin would guarantee their passage and purge 35 years of frustration - Yorath believes there will be no need to motivate, merely to explain what is expected to each individual.

Wales's manager certainly cut an impressively relaxed figure yesterday. Wading through hundreds of telegrams from well-wishers - among them John Major, Princess Diana, George Best and the Welsh Rugby Union - had obviously been therapeutic, while he learned from bitter experience at Leeds under Don Revie's managership not to project anxiety publicly.

His starting line-up will remain secret until this evening, though Gary Speed is likely to be preferred to Jeremy Goss in place of the suspended Mark Hughes. Andy Melville is set to fill the sweeper's role normally occupied by Mark Aizlewood, who is also banned. It will be the usual hotch-potch of disparate talents, with Yorath placing the onus on players from opposite ends of the age spectrum. One, Ryan Giggs, reaches 20 this month. The other, Neville Southall, was born within months of Wales's only appearance in the finals, in 1958.

From the Manchester United prodigy, the management's requirement is 'a flash of genius', such as Giggs provided with a sumptuous strike on his full debut against Belgium. 'Half Europe knows about Ryan now,' Yorath said, 'but if he got us to the finals, the whole world would know about him.' The Everton goalkeeper is 'as good as ever', Yorath insisted, and also an excellent defensive organiser. Without Aizelwood's vocal presence, Wales may be grateful for Southall's lung power as well as his saving grace.

Romania need just a point to qualify, yet are unlikely to sit back. Only Japan have scored more than their 27 goals in a qualifying section, and it is in the genes for the likes of Gheorghe Hagi and Florin Raducioiu to attack. Hagi ran amok when Wales crashed 5-1 in Bucharest, while Raducioiu has eight goals in Group Four, as many as Ian Rush.

Wales, therefore, must impose their own, typically British tempo while taking care to avoid charging forward recklessly - which Yorath felt national sides had tended to do since his own playing days.

Welsh thoughts are bound to stray to Belgium's match with the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks in Brussels. Their nightmare scenario there is an away victory, in which event Wales could win by one goal and still miss out. However, the slenderest of margins would suffice provided Belgium take at least a point; if the RCS lose, any win would send Wales through. Anything less and they will once again fall at the last.

The wall of sound behind them may be all the motivation they need - and then there is the crowd. Southall's ghetto- blaster, pumping out everything from Heavy Metal to Tom Jones, has become a fixture in the Welsh dressing- room. Indeed, its owner shed fresh light on Yorath's decision to dispense with his soapbox by suggesting that the way it drowned out team talks was the true secret of Wales's success.

WALES (probable team v Romania, World Cup Group Four, Cardiff, tonight): Southall (Everton); Melville (Sunderland), Phillips (Nottingham Forest), Young (Crystal Palace), Symons (Portsmouth), Bodin (Swindon), Speed (Leeds United), Horne (Everton), Giggs (Manchester United), Saunders (Aston Villa), Rush (Liverpool).

ROMANIA (probable): Prunea (Dinamo Bucharest); Petrescu (Genoa), Popescu (PSV Eindhoven), Belodedici (Valencia), Prodan (Steaua Bucharest), Sabau (Brescia), Dumitrescu (Steaua), Hagi (Brescia), Munteanu (Cercle Bruges), Lacatus (Steaua), Raducioiu (Milan).