Football: Wales allow themselves a wry smile: Trevor Haylett reports on the success of Terry Yorath's enterprising team in Cyprus

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The Independent Online
Painfully and regularly reminded of their status as the nearly-men of world football, Wales could afford a wry smile on their return home from Limassol yesterday. Alone among the home countries to claim a World Cup victory on Wednesday there was further satisfaction, for now but particularly for the future, in the parallel achievement of their Under-21s, the night before.

Successive wins over the Faroe Islands and Cyprus should not by themselves provoke wild jubilation in the streets of Cardiff and Swansea. But, unquestionably, together they have restored belief in a side that eptomises the one-for-all, all- for-one philosophy; the sweeper system abandoned recklessly in Bucharest with the concession of five goals has been effectively restored and the other results in Group Four are working in their favour.

Terry Yorath's team next go to Belgium for a November fixture that with the hosts' defeat of Romania this week now assumes greater significance. Belgium are top with maximum points from four games and while they are the new group favourites, the Wales manager believes his men retain a psychological edge.

'Over the last two games (in the last European Championship qualifying campaign) we took three points off them and I think we are capable of doing it again,' he said. 'With Romania losing it means no one is running away with it. Czechoslovakia do not travel well and neither do the Romanians.

'Bucharest was a complete and utter disaster not only for the team but also for me but we are now back on the rails.'

The victory in the Tsirion Stadium was a team effort that prompted Yorath to give praise yet again for their spirit and gutsiness - 'even if you're the best team in the world playing in those conditions, in the heat, and on a bumpy pitch, you need more than skill to get through' - and there was delight that the winning goal should be a rare offering from Mark Hughes.

Not a prolific scorer for Manchester United and hardly so for Wales but Hughes's all-round contribution for his country is appreciated by his manager who says he has possibly the best technique of any home player. 'The fact that I was surprised to discover he had not scored for us for two years is a reflection of how highly I rate him,' Yorath said.

Hughes's header - he himself described it as 'textbook' - from David Phillips's corner made it the right result from all considerations. Difficult opposition and a surface capable of doing anything to the ball underlined the old cliche that there are no longer easy fixtures in the global game - with the exception of the Faroes.

The possibility occurring to more than one Welsh mind on their home flight was that they could be the only British representatives in America for the World Cup finals in two years time. Fantasy? Maybe, but Yorath says: 'The players believe they can do it and without belief you'll never achieve anything.

'We have a world-class goalkeeper (Neville Southall), three strikers who are among the best in the world (Ian Rush, Dean Saunders and Hughes) and emerging talent in Gary Speed, Kit Symons and Mark Pembridge.'

All this and with Ryan Giggs still to come? That dog-eared statistic which says that Wales have not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since 1958 could be in jeopardy.