Football: Ireland trip still in doubt

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The Independent Online
THE REPUBLIC of Ireland should find out today whether Saturday's European Championship qualifier in Macedonia will take place. The game, scheduled to be held in Skopje, is in doubt because of the possibility of Nato air strikes in the area.

Uefa, the governing body of European football, could decide to hold the match at a neutral venue or move it to late April. Yugoslavia's match with Croatia in Belgrade is also in doubt.

The Irish squad are due to fly to Macedonia on Thursday, and a Football Association of Ireland spokesman said: "We have got to be assured that everything will be safe."

The Republic's manager, Mick McCarthy, said he was preparing his team in the expectation that the game would go ahead. "What's happening in Kosovo is very sad but until somebody in authority tells us to the contrary, we must assume that the match is on," he said.

The Republic's match in Yugoslavia, scheduled for last October, was postponed at the time because Nato countries were considering military action.

Uefa should also reveal today its decision over Wales' request to play Denmark in June in Cardiff, not Liverpool. Uefa has already denied one Welsh attempt to move the fixture, after the Danes expressed their wish for the game to be played at Anfield.

The Wales manager, Bobby Gould, flew to Geneva yesterday with a delegation from the Football Association of Wales to plead his case. But of more pressing concern for Gould is an injury setback which could rob him of Ryan Giggs against Switzerland next week.

Giggs was missing from the Manchester United line-up against Everton on Sunday because of a hamstring problem, although his club manager, Alex Ferguson, said that he would still join up with his international team- mates on Thursday and a decision would be left to the Football Association of Wales' medical experts.

"Alex has said that Ryan can join us, and that is what will happen," confirmed Gould. "We will have a good look at him on Thursday and take it from there. At the moment I'm concentrating on the Uefa meeting into our appeal to switch the Denmark game to Cardiff. I will start turning my attention to Ryan Giggs when we get back on Tuesday evening."

It is likely Wales that will not be eager to clear up any doubts over Giggs' fitness in order to leave the Swiss guessing until the last moment. But Gould said: "I think the Swiss have more to worry about at the moment with their game in Belarus on Saturday to start thinking whether Ryan Giggs will be facing them in Zurich on Wednesday week."

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