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Ian Walsh's column

Ian Walsh
Ian Walsh
Former Wales international and BBC pundit

Forget from Russia with love, coming home with a point would do!

Simon Davies
Simon Davies is the only real top-class experienced player Toshack has to call on in Moscow

Wales could desperately do with the footballing gods smiling on them in Moscow on Wednesday - and not just to make amends from their Euro 2004 play-off heartbreak.

I've tried to forget that frustrating two-legged defeat when Wales had arguably their best chance of qualifying for a major finals since the 1958 World Cup.

Russia's path into the those European Championships was controversial because of the Egor Titov drug scandal that engulfed the aftermath of on of the darkest nights in Welsh football.

If you recall, Wales wanted Russia thrown out of Euro 2004 after Titov failed a drugs test for the banned substance bromantan following Wales' superb first-leg goalless draw - but the Welsh FA lost a Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal.

Some say Wales should exact revenge when we return to the Lokomotiv Stadium, the scene of the aforementioned crime, this week but for me we should forget the excuses.

We didn't qualify because of our poor performance on the pitch, it wasn't a reflection on our performance in the courtroom.

That was a great chance to qualify but we blew it, regardless of what illegal substances one of their players were or were not taking.


Such is the Welsh team's transition under Tosh, not one of the starting line-up in that play-off will return to Moscow - and the Russians would consider this a home banker.

Craig Bellamy, Jason Koumas, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins and Freddy Eastwood are Wales' best players but will miss Moscow.

Stand-in skipper Simon Davies is the only real top-class experienced player Toshack has to call on this week.

It will be perilously difficult for Wales to return home with anything but a patched-up Wales must do to Russia what Azerbaijan did to us in Cardiff on Saturday.

The Azeris worked hard, were extremely well-organised and frustrated Wales for long periods and their tenacious play and commitment made us play like a bunch of individuals rather than a team.

Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin
Russia boast one of the finest front-lines in Europe as in Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin Guus Hiddink has 35m of fire-power in his arsenal

We must take a leaf out Azerbaijan's book because all of the pressure is on Russia, they'll be expected to destroy us regardless of our injury problems.

But often we perform best when we're underdogs and let's hope this inexperienced team can rise to the occasion and make a nation proud.

Wales must keep it defensively tight, break up play, take the sting out of their attack and quieten the hostile crowd inside the Lokomotiv Stadium with a display of courage and togetherness.

As if you make a team disjointed, their star men will be forced to try and win games on their own and so their frustrations will deepen.

But my concern is that Russia boast one of the finest frontlines in Europe as in Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin, Guss Hiddink has 35m of fire-power in his arsenal.

Wales' rearguard of Craig Morgan, Chris Gunter and Ashley Williams will have their work cut out in one of the most intimidating environments in world football.

But keep out the Russian onslaught early on, it's amazing how any partisan crowd can turn.

Good luck boys.

Ian Walsh was talking to BBC Sport Interactive's Peter Shuttleworth

see also
Parry 'just made up the numbers'
08 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Parry in shock Wales retirement
08 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Koumas ruled out of Russia trip
08 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Gunter's warning to new Spurs pal
07 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Wales lose Euro 2004 appeal
13 May 04 |  Wales
Russia break Welsh hearts
19 Nov 03 |  Wales
Wales hold Russia
15 Nov 03 |  Wales
BBC Sport Wales coverage
24 Dec 06 |  Wales

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