Blame players if Wales lose to Paraguay, says Toshack

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The Independent Online

John Toshack took the unusual step of absolving himself of blame in advance should Wales falter against one of England's opponents in the World Cup finals, Paraguay, in the Millennium Stadium tonight.

The St David's Day friendly is Wales' first match since the defeat by Cyprus, which was seemingly an ideal opportunity to build on World Cup qualifying wins over Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. "I did everything wrong," said Toshack in mea culpa mode, "from the travel arrangements to the practice pitch. It was a step back for us."

The Wales manager cited his failure to inspect the training facilities properly, which led to his having to cut short a session for players who had already gone three days without such a work-out. Toshack then "failed to transmit" information adequately during the game.

"We normally plan things better than that and we suffered for it," the former Real Madrid coach added. "Our performance was pitiful, and that was my fault. I excuse the players. But I won't make the same mistakes again. So if we slip up again, it won't be my fault."

The Wales captain, Ryan Giggs, returning to the scene of Manchester United's triumph in the Carling Cup final on Sunday, viewed the visit of a "very technical" South American side as a chance to build towards the European Championship qualifying campaign next autumn.

Another of his generation, John Hartson, has retired from the international scene, but Giggs felt there was a "good balance" between experience and youth in Toshack's squad.

"Five or six of us used to sit together on the back seat. Now there's just me," he said. "There are lots of new players, and others who have been around a few years who can push for a regular place. We have four games now before the Euro 2008 qualifiers start next season, so there are a few places up for grabs."

Lewin Nyatanga, who was three years old when Giggs made his Wales debut, will become the youngest to represent the Principality provided he recovers from a toe injury. At 17 years and 195 days, the Derby centre-back - whose father is Zimbabwean and mother is from Newtown - is 31 days younger than Ryan Green when he was capped in 1998.

Paraguay, who are without their best known performer, the injured Bayern Munich striker Roque Santa Cruz. But perhaps ominously for Wales - not to mention England, who will have spies in the stand - their Uruguayan coach, Anibal Ruiz, can still pick from players based in Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Mexico.

Wales (4-3-2-1; probable): Price (Ipswich); Edwards (Wolves), Gabbidon (West Ham), Nyatanga (Derby), Ricketts (Swansea); Koumas (West Bromwich), Fletcher (West Ham), Davies (Everton); Bellamy (Blackburn), Giggs (Manchester United); Earnshaw (Norwich).

Paraguay (4-4-2; probable): Villar (Newell's Old Boys); Caniza (Santos Laguna), J C Caceres (Estudiantes), Da Silva (Toluca), Toledo (Real Zaragoza); Barreto (NEC Nijmegen), Acuna (Deportivo La Coruña), Paredes (Reggina), Dos Santos (Bayern Munich); Cardozo (San Lorenzo), Valdez (Werder Bremen).

Referee: D McDonald (Scotland).

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