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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2007, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Giggs finishes with flourish
By Nabil Hassan
BBC Wales Sport at the Millennium Stadium

Ryan Giggs ended his Wales career in vintage form.

The 33-year-old rolled back the years on Saturday with a display against the Czech Republic that brought the fans to their feet and had pundits purring.

The only thing missing at the Millennium Stadium was a goal from arguably Wales' greatest ever player.

No Welshman can boast a domestic record to match that of Giggs.

Ryan Giggs produced a fine end to his Wales career
Ryan Giggs produced a fine end to his Wales career

Nine Premiership titles, four FA Cup winner's medals, a Champions League and a Cup Winners' Cup, not to mention the odd Community Shield and Carling Cup win.

But it was his absence from a major international tournament in a Wales jersey that will haunt Giggs until the day he hangs up his boots for good.

This week he gave up the international ghost. No longer willing to put his tired limbs and aged body through the countless Wales get-togethers, he finally called it a day after 64 caps and 12 goals.

"It just felt like the right time, for me and for Wales," admitted Giggs last week.

The Manchester United man will be the first to admit that in the past year or so his performances for Wales have been anything but vintage.

That was in stark contrast to his performances in the alternative red of United, which not only saw him short-listed as player of the year in the PFA awards, but also won him a place in the Premiership's team of the year.

In fact Giggs was an integral part of United's 2006/07 campaign, which saw them lift the Premiership title, reach an FA Cup final and a Champions League semi-final.

United's success has probably been to the detriment of Wales, with Giggs playing more games last season then in previous campaigns for his club.

606: DEBATE

As a result he would no longer join up with his international colleagues for Wales games with the youthful abundance of old.

A succession of hamstring injuries over the years has resulted in him having to train less and while the pace may still be there, the stamina is not.

It led to a succession of below-par performance for Giggs. For a man who set the highest of standards, this cannot have been easy to take.

While his commitment to Wales over the years was often questioned - his scarcity at friendlies pointed to - his passion and desire to take them to an international competition was never in doubt.

Maybe it was a purely selfish obsession on Giggs' part. For all his domestic success he never achieved it on the international stage and that would have hurt.

Along with another Manchester United legend, George Best, he will now be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time never to appear at a major international championship.

But after 16 years and 64 caps Giggs finally realised that in his playing lifetime, Wales were never going to reach a World Cup or a European Championships.

Ryan Giggs terrorised the Czech Republic defence
'Giggsy' demanded the ball, ran with it like he was 17 all over again

He finally realised that a choice would have to be made between Manchester United and Wales, and his desire to prolong his playing career at Old Trafford made up his mind.

So in his last game and in front of just over 30,000 spectators at the Millennium Stadium, Giggs made his final appearance for Wales.

Fittingly, perhaps frustratingly, in his last game Giggs produced arguably one of his finest performances for his country, all it lacked was a goal.

'Giggsy' demanded the ball, ran with it like he was 17 all over again and linked up with Craig Bellamy and his Welsh colleagues with consummate ease.

He dominated his final game for Wales and with the score at 0-0 and 25 minutes remaining he set off on a typical Giggs run.

Beating four Czech defenders he only had goalkeeper Petr Cech to beat, but his shot was just too close to the Chelsea stopper and the score remained at 0-0.

It would have been a perfect way for Giggs to go out.

But with a minute remaining manger John Toshack ensured that would not be how Ryan was remembered by the Welsh public and up went the sign: Giggs off, Earnshaw on.

The crowd of 30,714 rose to their feet and applauded off arguably the greatest Welsh footballer they will see in their lifetime.



SEE ALSO
Giggs loss not the end - Bellamy
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Wales v Czech Republic photos
02 Jun 07 |  Football
Giggs ends international career
30 May 07 |  Internationals
Giggs retirement shocks Saunders
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Kevin Ratcliffe on Giggs
30 May 07 |  Internationals


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