Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wales need qualifying 'miracle'

Euro 2012 qualifier: Switzerland v Wales
Venue: St Jakob Park, Basel Date: Tuesday, 12 October Kick-off: 1930 BST Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and online, live text commentary on BBC Sport website and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

James Collins
James Collins will win his 37th Welsh cap on Basel on Tuesday

James Collins has virtually conceded Euro 2012 finals defeat as he admits Wales need a "miracle" to qualify after losing their opening two qualifiers.

The Welsh have suffered back-to-back defeats to Montenegro and Bulgaria now travel to Switzerland, who are also pointless after two Group G matches.

"Miracles are needed to if we are to get second place in this group," said Aston Villa defender Collins.

"And we can't expect to qualify after losing our first two qualifiers."

Wales have failed to qualify for a major championship finals since starring at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

The Welsh did make it to a European Championship quarter-finals - losing to Yugoslavia - in 1976 but, unlike the present day, the European finals were only made up of the last four teams.

Wales lost 1-0 in Montenegro - who now top the group thanks to three wins from three matches - before a 1-0 defeat by Bulgaria at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.

Now Wales go to Switzerland hoping to avoid losing their opening three qualifiers - an unwanted feat a Welsh team has not suffered since the 1970 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Caretaker coach Brian Flynn, in temporary charge as the Football Association of Wales seek a full-time successor to John Toshack, now has to inspire his depleted side to gain their first win on Swiss soil without 12 players.

Captain Craig Bellamy, defensive duo Sam Ricketts and Chris Gunter and midfield trio Aaron Ramsey, Jack Collison and Joe Ledley would have been certain starters in Basel on Tuesday.

But all are unavailable for various reasons as Flynn hopes his young squad can restore some belief against one of the teams that starred in the summer's World Cup finals in South Africa.

"Everyone has to up their game and performance," experienced centre-back Collins told his team-mates.

"And being one of the older players, I must must show some of the younger boys how and lead by example.

"There is no point feeling sorry for ourselves, it is the worst thing we can do."

Flynn started his temporary reign in unconvincing fashion on Friday as Bulgaria beat weak Wales - a defeat that would not help his chances of getting Welsh football's top job full-time.

And Collins, who will win his 37th cap in Switzerland, acknowledges: "Anybody looking in would think new era but same old story."

Wales felt the Bulgaria clash was "must win" if they did have realistic hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.

But their defeat and Montenegro's superb start means the Montenegrins and England - who clash at Wembley on Tuesday - are favourites for the top two spot.

"We said it was a must-win and we came away with nothing, it hurts," said stand-in skipper Ashley Williams.


Wales faces a defensive crisis in Basel as Flynn is without suspended pair Gunter and Ricketts and ankle injury victim Neal Eardley while Danny Gabbidon has retired from international football.

But Ricketts insists Wales will react positively without him, saying: "It is not difficult to lift yourself, it is an honour to play for your country.

"We are bitterly disappointed now but we will analyse what needs to be worked on. It is a tall order but it doesn't mean we are going to stop trying.

"The lads are honest, youthful, hard-working and talented. They will never chuck the towel in."

And Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld has told side must beat Wales if they are to qualify for the finals of Euro 2012.

The Swiss, beaten 3-1 by England in their opening qualifier, lost their second game going down 1-0 in Montenegro, meaning Tuesday's clash with joint-bottom Wales is now a crucial one.

"We must not lose our nerve," said Hitzfeld.

"We desperately need a win so that we can release the tension and we have got to beat Wales on Tuesday to start our recovery."

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