Wales confident of winning appeal

Mark Hughes has put the injured John Hartson and Craig Bellamy on standby for Euro 2004 call-ups should Wales win their last-ditch appeal to be included in the Portugal finals.

The pair have initially been left out of a 30-man squad named today to play friendlies against Norway in Oslo on 27 May and Canada at Wrexham on 30 May. Both have struggled with injuries for months - Hartson has had a back operation while Bellamy has been missing because of knee and hamstring problems.

But should Wales win their appeal at the Court of Arbitration in Lausanne tomorrow, suddenly everything changes. If the three independent judges rule that Russia should be thrown out because of Igor Titov's failed drugs test during last November's play-offs, then Wales will be heading for Portugal with a month to prepare.

"Obviously during this week if that situation changes then I have the opportunity to change the squad at a later date," Hughes said. "But I am selecting this squad on where we are at the moment.

"I am more optimistic than ever. It would have been very difficult for Uefa to go back and change their regulations and I did not ever feel they would do that.

"Now it is an independent body under court proceedings, I think we have a better chance. Certainly the way the Uefa appeals were structured and presented were baffling to me.

"This is now a court of law and that will be to our advantage. It was always going to be very difficult for Uefa to say we were correct and to throw one of the bigger nations out of a competition. It was unrealistic to expect Uefa were going to change their minds."

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