Giggs seeks redemption by leading Wales revival

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The Independent Football

Ryan Giggs agreed yesterday that his performances for Wales have often been underwhelming, citing an underdog mentality in his national side that is unknown in the mindset at Manchester United. Yet on the eve of his 50th cap - against Austria in a game Wales must win to maintain any hope of World Cup qualification - he said John Toshack's arrival as manager and his own captaincy should inspire him to come good today at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Ryan Giggs agreed yesterday that his performances for Wales have often been underwhelming, citing an underdog mentality in his national side that is unknown in the mindset at Manchester United. Yet on the eve of his 50th cap - against Austria in a game Wales must win to maintain any hope of World Cup qualification - he said John Toshack's arrival as manager and his own captaincy should inspire him to come good today at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

If Wales have ever needed big performances from their leading players, namely Giggs, Craig Bellamy, John Hartson and Simon Davies, then it is over the next five days in the Austria double-header. The Welsh lie fifth in Group Six, with two points from four games, and already lag seven points behind second-placed Poland.

Arguably of greater concern is the damning statistic that they have not won a competitive match for two years, since beating Azerbaijan 4-0 at home in a Euro 2004 qualifying game at the end of March 2003. Though Toshack's reign commenced with a 2-0 friendly win over Hungary last month, the real work starts today.

"I've been at the top with United for so long, winning things, and then you come away with Wales and it's totally different," Giggs said. "You play a couple of games and then you don't see each other for a couple of months. You can't really get a run of form so when you do come away, you need to make sure that you prepare for the game in the right way, and yeah, I don't think I've produced the sort of run of form.

"It's obviously different. With Wales, in many of the games we play, we are underdogs, and you have to approach it in a different way. I don't think international football is a step down but we do have so many great players at United, and I've been fortunate enough to play with so many great players, that every United game, no matter who you are playing, you go in as favourites.

"With Wales it's completely reversed. Most games, you go in as underdogs. And its a different way to approach the game. With United, you're used to attacking, you're used to having a lot of the ball. With Wales, it's not like that. In many games, we've had to chase the game."

Earlier this week Toshack said that his leading quartet of players were a match for any he had worked with in a managerial career that has included spells at Real Madrid and Deportivo la Coruña. "It gives you confidence knowing you are playing with quality players," Giggs said. "Craig, in the last performance against Hungary, was unplayable at times, because of his speed and his direct approach. And all of us are quite capable of producing goals, so hopefully we can do that and click straight away.

"Different managers have different ideas. The great attacking options that we have had over the last few years has been well publicised and I still feel that is the case.

"The players who can do damage need to make sure that they do, and then the other players need to produce that platform for the likes of me, Craig, Simon and John, to go on and score the goals. Hopefully we can get that right balance."

On his captaincy, he said: "It doesn't get any better than captaining your country. We've got a lot of young lads coming through who will be looking to the likes of me to inspire them both on and off the pitch, and I realise that responsibility."

He added he has no intention of retiring from international football in the near future, whatever happens in this campaign. "The obvious goal is to qualify for a major tournament. That's what I want to do, that's what every player wants to do who is in the squad. That drives you on. I've got two, maybe three campaigns left. Hopefully I can do it."

Though Wales face an Austria side depleted by suspensions and injuries, there is bullishness in Hans Krankl's squad. "We can't wait to play Wales, especially without Robbie Savage," said Martin Stranzl, the 24-year-old Stuttgart midfielder, likely to be pressed into service as a defender today. "What were they doing retiring a player like that? Robbie Savage was everything that was good about Wales. He was a pain to any side.

"Yes, Wales have class players like Giggs, Bellamy and Hartson," he added, "but the ball has to get to them first.

"It's a case of them or us. We need six points and that will start on Saturday. We will beat Wales at the Millennium Stadium - it's a case of us having to." Wales, not least Giggs, could argue a similar imperative.

Wales: (4-2-3-1) (probable): Coyne (Burnley); Delaney (Aston Villa), Gabbidon (Cardiff), Page (Coventry), Ricketts (Swansea); Fletcher (West Ham), Robinson (Sunderland); Davies (Tottenham), Bellamy (Celtic), Giggs (Manchester Utd); Hartson (Celtic).

Austria: (4-4-2) (probable): Payer (Rapid Vienna); Dospel (Austria Vienna), Hiden (Rapid Vienna), Ehmann (Graz AK), Stranzl (Stuttgart); Kirchler (Pasching), Aufhauser (Graz AK), Ivanschitz (Rapid Vienna), Amerhauser (Graz AK); Vastic (Austria Vienna), Haas (JEF United).

Referee: P Allaerts (Belgium).

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