Hodges balances Wales

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The Independent Online

Bobby Gould completed his preparations for tonight's friendly against Italy knowing all the pressure is on his counterpart, Arrigo Sacchi.

The Welsh manager, who gives Sheffield United's Glyn Hodges his first international start in almost four years, takes his side to Terni, in Umbria, knowing that Sacchi and his team will suffer ferocious criticism unless they turn on the style.

"We've come here to win, just as Italy have," Gould said. "The difference is the immense pressure they're under. I've got a great deal of respect for Sacchi and what he's achieved and compared to him I've done nothing. But he's been challenged to go one better and that makes it really tough for him."

The return of Hodges, whose last start was against Austria in Vienna in April 1992, is among eight changes - mostly enforced - from the side which drew 1-1 in Albania in November.

Kit Symons, Chris Coleman and Adrian Williams return in defence, although David Phillips could be asked to fill the sweeper role, allowing Gary Speed to take his favourite central midfield position. Strikers Ian Rush and Mark Hughes are back together, and captain Barry Horne returns in midfield.

"We're missing Mark Pembridge, but Glyn has an awesome left foot and will give us the balance we need on the left side," Gould said. "In international football, dead-ball situations are vitally important and Glyn is a great striker of the ball.

Hodges, who made his debut way back in 1984, admitted to being "surprised" at being named in the starting line-up, but said: "I never gave up hope. Even when I wasn't being picked by Mike Smith I was on the periphery and named in the stand-by squad and that always gave me a buzz because it meant I wasn't being ruled out."

Sacchi, who pairs Fabrizio Ravanelli of Juventus with Parma's Gianfranco Zola up front, expects an exacting match. "It is important for us as a side still learning and building towards next summer to play against a team like Wales," he said. "You know when you are playing against a British side there is no such thing as a friendly."

ITALY: Peruzzi; Ferrara (both Juventus), Carboni (Roma), Di Matteo (Lazio), Costacurta (Milan), Apolloni (Parma), Di Livio (Juventus), Albertini (Milan), Del Piero (Juventus), Zola (Parma), Ravanelli (Juventus).

WALES: Southall (Everton); Jenkins (Huddersfield), Coleman (Blackburn), Phillips (Nottm Forest), Williams (Reading), Symons (Man City), Horne (Everton, capt), Hodges (Sheff Utd), Rush (Liverpool), Hughes (Chelsea), Speed (Leeds).