Almeyda to miss Wales match

Kieran Daley
Tuesday 12 February 2002 01:00

Matias Almeyda, Parma's Argentinian ball-winner, will miss the World Cup warm-up friendly against Wales tomorrow because of injury.

Almeyda, who played in the 1998 World Cup finals in France, injured his right calf muscle playing for his Italian club in their 1-0 home win over Lazio in Serie A at the weekend. His place as Argentina's crucial deep-lying midfielder is likely to be taken by Claudio Husain of River Plate.

The Argentinians, with the Rangers forward Claudio Caniggia back in the squad for the first time in nearly six years, have been in Cardiff since Sunday. Yesterday they were forced to take an unscheduled break as teeming rain in the city thwarted their training plans.

Marcelo Bielsa and his team were reduced to a fruitless four-hour coach ride around the backwaters of South Wales in search of a training ground. Juan Sebastian Veron and his team-mates ended up sharing an indoor "barn" at the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel just outside Cardiff along with their Welsh hosts, the Wales rugby union squad and their A team, who are preparing to face France in the Six Nations' Championship on Saturday.

It was hardly the ideal preparation for the Argentinians, who managed just a short training session on Sunday evening at Barry Town's ground. But yesterday's session at Ninian Park was called off, which left Argentina to trail around South Wales from Barry to Merthyr Tydfil looking for a pitch that was not under water – to no avail.

In the end they went to the Wales HQ to be confronted by Mark Hughes' team plus two rugby teams queuing to use the indoor pitch at the hotel, locally known as the "barn".

With expectations high after 60,000 tickets were sold in record time and not wanting to further frustrate their visitors, the Wales management quickly worked out a plan which allowed all four teams to use their facility.

"I'm very frustrated, but we knew we were not coming to a dry country and we understand the situation," Bielsa said. "We decided to drive to the Welsh team hotel for help after driving around looking for a pitch to use. There were four teams wanting to train indoors and with some compromise we were all able to do some work."

An FA of Wales spokesman said: "It was very trying for the Argentinians, they were not very happy but then we would feel the same if it happened to us if we were abroad trying to prepare for a game. The indoor barn at our hotel became very popular, but everybody worked to compromise and find time for all four teams."

The Argentinians admit they are having great problems finding teams to play before the World Cup – which was why they asked Wales at short notice to fit them in – and they are finding their build-up for the finals fraught. Their only other game before the finals, so far, is against Germany in April.

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