John Toshack named a 26-man squad yesterday for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in less than two weeks time. The Wales manager included captain Craig Bellamy and defender James Collins in his squad, despite both players currently being injured.
Bellamy has not featured for his club since March 1 when he limped off at Upton Park, whereas Collins has missed West Ham’s last three matches, not featuring for almost a month. Both players are believed to have outside chances of returning for their clubs this weekend, and Toshack will no doubt be keeping his fingers crossed for his two key players.
Jack Collison has recently joined club mate Danny Gabbidon on the sidelines and will miss both games. In his place Gavin Williams is recalled, hoping for his first cap in three and a half years, and uncapped Middlesbrough defender Rhys Williams is also selected.
Wales face Finland in Cardiff on Saturday, March 28 in what Toshack has already indentified as a “win or bust” game. With Germany and Russia already occupying the top two places in Group 4, Toshack is keenly aware that his team’s only hope of challenging for a play-off place requires them to first see off Finland.
World Cup Qualifying, Europe – Current Standings
Germany 4 10
Russia 3 6
Wales 4 6
Finland 3 4
Azerbaijan 3 1
Liechtenstein 3 1
While Wales face Finland, Russia and Germany have home games against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein respectively. Therefore, the importance of winning the match at the Millennium Stadium cannot be underestimated as it will most likely be the only way of staying in contact with the top two.
Wales lost their last qualifier 1-0 in Moenchengladbach in October, eventually succumbing to a late strike by Piotr Trochowski, his first goal for this country. Since then they have had contrasting fortunes in two friendly games, first gaining an impressive victory in Denmark courtesy of a solitary Craig Bellamy goal before losing 1-0 to Poland in a friendly played in Portugal last month.
Toshack’s side have a good record against Finland, having only lost two of nine previous meetings, winning four. However, in a must-win game they will need to improve on their home record which currently stands at two wins out of five against the Finns.
The second fixture at home to Germany offers less hope looking at past results, Wales having only won two of the 16 matches played between the two nations. However, both of these wins have come in Wales home matches, the most recent a 1-0 friendly win in 2002 as well as a further 1-0 victory in qualifying for Euro ’92.
Full Wales squad for matches against Finland and Germany:
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Wolverhampton W), Boaz Myhill (Hull City), Owain Fon Williams (Stockport County)
Defenders: Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur), James Collins (West Ham United), Neal Eardley (Oldham Athletic), Chris Gunter (Tottenham Hotspur, on loan at Nottingham Forest), Craig Morgan (Peterborough United), Lewin Nyatanga (Derby County), Sam Ricketts (Hull City), Ashley Williams (Swansea City), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough, on loan at Burnley)
Midfielders: Simon Davies (Fulham), David Edwards (Wolverhampton W), Carl Fletcher (Plymouth Argyle), Owain Tudur Jones (Swindon Town), Jason Koumas (Wigan Athletic), Joe Ledley (Cardiff City), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Carl Robinson (Toronto), Gavin Williams (Bristol City)
Forwards: Craig Bellamy (Manchester City), David Cotterill (Sheffield United), Robert Earnshaw (Nottingham Forest), Ched Evans (Manchester City), Sam Vokes (Wolverhampton Wanderers)