Football: Wales ready to sign off on a losing note

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The Independent Online
WALES, beaten for the third home game running in their friendly against Sweden at Wrexham, are unlikely to have an opportunity to gain a morale-raising victory before hitting the European Championship trail next autumn.

The FA of Wales is waiting to hear whether Luxembourg or Hungary are prepared to receive Wales next month, while Nigeria had offered to play in the Principality en route to the World Cup finals. But as the FAW's chief executive, Alun Evans, said yesterday: 'It's not looking promising.'

Mike Smith, whose second managerial debut with Wales was spoiled by two goals in the last six minutes, would like another fixture, though not without the likes of Giggs, Saunders, Hughes, Coleman, Young and Symons, all of whom were unavailable on Wednesday. However, the possible opponents prefer June dates, whereas Smith has agreed a cut-off of 24 May with his squad.

Several players are booked in for minor operations and some have holidays arranged, while others may be required for the Football League play-offs or club tours. So the 2-0 defeat by a Swedish side bound for the United States may represent Smith's first and final chance to restore the confidence and cohesion of the Terry Yorath era before Albania come to Cardiff on 7 September.

Smith was 'not that concerned' over the likely hiatus, stressing that rest was also important, and added that for an hour his makeshift line-up had matched Sweden. Neville Southall and Ian Rush looked as committed to the cause as ever, while the team as a whole looked more at ease with Smith's conventional 4-4-2 formation than the tactics deployed by John Toshack against Norway last month.

Barry Horne, the captain, claimed that Wales were over the worst. 'After the fiasco at Ninian Park it was a great relief,' he said. 'We all feel a lot better, and I'll be trying to persuade Mike to fix another game for next month.'