Football: Giggs' gifts bring reasons for optimism: Wales aim at qualified success as Republic worry over Spain's defeat

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The Independent Online
THE optimism is not yet of Jack Charlton-sized proportions but with the remarkable Ryan Giggs seemingly anything is possible and now that also includes helping Wales to a place in the World Cup finals for the first time.

Rare indeed is the talent which at 19 and on his full debut can take hold of an international stage as Giggs did in inspiring his country's two-goal victory over Belgium in Cardiff. Rare indeed when a seasoned campaigner like Kevin Ratcliffe is moved to comment: 'Now I can tell my children I have played with Ryan Giggs.'

The Manchester United tyro is as unmoved by the plaudits as he is unimpressed by both his opponents and his own achievements. Charlton, who says we should not scoff at the thought that his Republic of Ireland could be World Cup winners in the United States next year, would appreciate the confidence.

'Afterwards I said to him well played, great goal, and he just nodded back,' the Welsh manager, Terry Yorath, said. 'Nothing more. Ryan's just one of those kids that come along now and then and can take everything in his stride. There are no limits to what he is capable of.'

Comparisions with Paul Gascoigne are irresistible. The same explosive free- kicks - just 18 minutes had elapsed when Giggs shattered Belgium composure with astonishing power from 20 yards - the same roar of crowd expectation when the ball is under his spell.

Of course Giggs could not defeat Belgium on his own and the satisfaction for Yorath on Wednesday was the level of excellence sustained by every player.

Now the big test for them all is to reproduce the passion and quality away from their favoured Arms Park and in the unfriendly surroundings of Ostrava later this month where they dare not allow their good work to go to waste against Czechoslovakia.

Yorath says he will be happy to come away from the match with a draw especially now that his central defenders, Eric Young and Mark Aizlewood, will miss the tie having been booked for a second time. Kit Symons will return and either Andrew Melville or Clayton Blackmore will come in.

Yorath will also be happy if the second qualifying place (Belgium, despite dropping their first points, are virtually unassailable as group leaders) comes down to a home game with Romania in November. Qualification will earn him a new contract while failure could put him out of work. Now though, not only Rush, Hughes and Saunders are shooting for him, but an amazing teenager with the world at his feet.