Crucial

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar September 1, 2017 18:25

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Crucial

By Satish Sekar at Cardiff City Stadium © Satish Sekar (September 1st 2017)

Tightrope

Wales face a must win match against Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday evening with Aaron Ramsey recovering from an injury, Neil Taylor and Joe Allen suspended, and Joe Ledley without a club. Austria are without striker Guido Burgstaller, and Wales have captain Ashley Williams, Ledley and Ben Davies, Jazz Richards, and Ramsey himself are on a tightrope – one booking away from suspension.

Ramsey, if fit, will be essential. Ramsey came off at half time in the 4-0 mauling by Liverpool. Despite being injured, he took some flak from Arsenal fans. “It was not so long ago he scored the winner in the FA Cup final and then came on in the opening game of the season and got them (Arsenal) back in the game”, his friend and teammate, Chris Gunter said on Wednesday.

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“So if they lose and people want to say stuff that is up to them”, Gunter continued. “He trained today so it looks like he will be fine which is really good news for us”.

Coleman emphasised that Ramsey had trained lightly at first, as they didn’t want to aggravate his injury, but he is one of the players on a tightrope – a booking a way from suspension.

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Milestone

If selected Gunter will win his 80th cap tomorrow night. It will be his 60th consecutive cap, a record manager Chris Coleman hailed today. Gunter will look back on the achievement – becoming the third Welshman to reach 80 caps – later. Only Neville Southall (92) and the late Gary Speed (85) have more.

Gunter has more important matters on his mind than personal landmarks. “There’s a bigger picture for us at the moment”, he said. “I am really proud. My family and friends take great pride in it as well and coming away and turning up for Wales. We always said we wanted to sell out our home games and we know how it’s extremely difficult to get tickets, so as a player it’s always just a pleasure to come away and represent your country and represent those fans. We know we are giving the public, in the bigger picture, a real good time to follow us. That makes you just as proud as getting to a number of caps”.

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Caution

Williams is aware of the need for caution. They need wins now and cannot afford suspensions. “You’re aware of it and don’t want to pick up a silly one but, at the same time, if you do pick up a yellow it’s football” he said. “You have to deal with it and someone else comes in. We’re missing Joe [Allen] which is not very good for us and we’d prefer him out there but it’s football and that’s the rule. You just have to get on with it”.

The draws – five out of six – are taking a toll, especially as leads have been squandered. “It’s something we’ve spoken about”, Williams said. “We need to do better when we’re in the lead. If that does happen, which hopefully it does, we’ll be in a better position to keep that lead and score again and manage the game better. It’s something we’ve not been happy with so we’ll have to worker harder than we have done to put that right”.

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Williams isn’t sure if it’s an advantage or disadvantage that Austria are in the same position as Wales – 4 points off the pace in Group D. But he is in no doubt what is required.

“It’s one we feel we must win,” Williams said about tomorrow’s match. “That’s what we haven’t had, that momentum in that campaign, which has been frustrating, but I do feel like it changed after the Serbia game [in June], which was still a draw but we felt like it was a good draw for us. It felt like the start then. If we can win this game, then we can keep this momentum going for the last three after this. That will be the plan and pick up a bit of steam to finish the campaign”.

Group leaders Serbia play second place Republic of Ireland – both on 12 points – tomorrow night too.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar September 1, 2017 18:25