Football / World Cup: Rush's Welsh warning: Welsh wary of gamesmanship

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WALES arrived in Cyprus last night with their World Cup confidence renewed by last month's six-goal defeat of the Faroe Islands - but tempered by a warning from Ian Rush, who has recent experience of the problems that could lie in store.

Rush was part of the Liverpool side who came safely through their European Cup-Winners' Cup tie with Apollon Limassol two weeks ago - although the Welshman, who needs just one more goal to establish a scoring record for his country, saw a potential hazard in the sending-off that night of Paul Stewart.

The abrasive midfielder was dismissed after making illegal contact with Michalis Christophi, the goalkeeper who will again be opposing Rush, Dean Saunders and Mark Hughes and the rest in the Tsirion Stadium here tomorrow. 'The Apollon player took about five seconds to go down,' Rush said. 'He made it look as if he had been pole-axed. It was pure gamesmanship and that's the kind of thing we will have to learn to cope with.'

Clayton Blackmore's presence as a sweeper in what should be an unchanged team will serve as a reminder of the folly of getting involved. Blackmore was shown the red card in Luxembourg two years ago in the European Championship campaign that became a glorious failure for the Welsh - but not for the Manchester United player. Suspended for four games, he also missed another five and was unable to reclaim his place until the friendly in Austria in April.

Recalling their Luxembourg troubles, Rush added: 'We were forced to play a lot of the game with 10 men, and in the end it was a battle to get through 1-0. We have to be totally professional, match them in physical effort and not get involved in any nonsense. Hopefully, then, our extra skills will give us the edge.'

He also sounds the alarm about the pitch Wales can expect in the first game in their history against Cyprus. 'It's the worst I've played on, half of it is soft, the rest is rock-hard and it is very uneven.'

The hosts won 2-0 in the Faroes, and lost only by a single goal in Belgium. Realistically, Wales have to win to feed the optimism gained from last month's result, and it can only be to guard against complacency that their manager, Terry Yorath, says: 'It will be a difficult game, probably harder than most we have had in the last four years. Cyprus are very organised and the game against Belgium shows that.' Fortunately, the only withdrawals from his squad have come from the expected substitutes - Ryan Giggs, the goalkeeper Tony Norman, and Paul Bodin.

WALES UNDER-21 (v Cyprus, Uefa Under-21 Championship, Larnaca, today): Margetson (Manchester City); Neilson (Newcastle), Searle (Cardiff), Chapple (Swansea), Peters (Norwich), Edwards (Bristol City), Bowen (Swansea), Owen (Wrexham), Blake (Cardiff), L Jones (Liverpool), Hughes (Bury). Substitutes: Bird (Cardiff); Coyne (Tranmere), Baddeley (Cardiff), Jenkins (Swansea).