Gould forced to change plans

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The plans of the Welsh manager, Bobby Gould, for his side's final European Championship qualifier in Albania on Wednesday have been disrupted by a spate of injuries.

Gould had wanted to stay loyal to the side beaten 2-1 by Germany in Cardiff last month for the match in Tirana's Qemal Stafa stadium. But three of that team - Nathan Blake (ankle), Kit Symons (blood disorder) and Gary Speed (ankle) - have pulled out and with four more squad members withdrawing it was a depleted Welsh party which trained at West Ham's Chadwell Heath complex yesterday.

The other casualties of Saturday's Endsleigh League action were Crystal Palace's Chris Coleman (poisoned toe) and the Ipswich midfielder, Geraint Williams, (Achilles tendon), while West Brom's Paul Mardon added to Gould's misery by picking up an injury in training which has forced him to pull out.

Gould has called up the uncapped duo of Crewe's Robbie Savage and Charlton's John Robinson from the stand-by squad and will name another central defender today.

Andy Townsend is struggling to overcome a foot injury in time to lead the Republic of Ireland into their decisive European Championship qualifying match against Portugal in Lisbon on Wednesday.

Townsend was last night named Footballer of the Year by Irish sportswriters, beating his Aston Villa teammate Paul McGrath into second place and John Aldridge of Tranmere into third.

Fabrizio Ravanelli, the Juventus striker, helped Italy edge a step closer to Euro '96 with two goals in a 3-1 victory over the Ukraine in Bari on Saturday night. The silver-haired striker equalised then put Italy in front after the Ukraine had taken an early lead. Milan's Paolo Maldini scored Italy's third with a brilliantly-taken volley.

Andry Polunin was credited with the Ukraine's goal in the 19th minute, latching on to a cross from the winger Gennady Orbu to beat the Italian goalkeeper, Angelo Peruzzi.

Italy are level on 20 points with Croatia at the top of Group Four with one match left to play. A draw in the last match of the campaign, at home to Lithuania, who like the Ukraine cannot qualify for the finals, will be enough to see Italy through to the finals.