Undistracted by tradition, tactical Giggs presses on with Slovakia plan

Ryan Giggs says his determination to press home Wales’ “advantage” at the start of their European Championship campaign was the reason behind fielding a second-string side in the 1-0 victory against Trinidad & Tobago.

Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale and other key players were missing as Ben Woodburn’s injury-time winner secured Wales a narrow success at Wrexham.

The game marked Wales’ return to the Racecourse Ground – the oldest existing ground in the world to stage international football – for the first time since 2008, and much had been made of the national team’s return to the north after 11 years.

But the 10,326-capacity crowd were left disappointed by Giggs’ team selection with the senior players stood down four days before the opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia in Cardiff.

Slovakia start their Group E campaign at home to Hungary on Thursday night before playing Wales less than 72 hours later on Sunday afternoon.

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“We have the advantage in this first game,” Wales manager Giggs said.

“Slovakia play Thursday then Sunday, it’s a two-and-a-half day turnaround.

“I wanted to make sure that we made that advantage count this week, both physically and mentally.

“Of course it’s disappointing for the fans. They want to see the likes of Gareth, but it’s my job to make sure we are ready for Sunday.”

Bale completed his first 90 minutes of 2019 on Saturday when he scored in Real’s 2-0 LaLiga victory over Celta Vigo.

But the 29-year-old took a breather in Wrexham alongside the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, David Brooks and Joe Allen.

In fact, skipper Ashley Williams, who has had limited game-time at Stoke lately, could be the only member of the starting line-up at Wrexham to play in Cardiff.

On Bale’s absence, Giggs said: “It was just too much of a risk with Sunday in mind. That was the case with a few of the players.

“Originally when I planned the game, it was going to be a first half and then we make changes.

“But Brooksy took a knock at the weekend on his ankle. Harry (Wilson) has played a lot of games, Connor (Roberts) has played a lot of games.

“Aaron picked up that little knock. It gave me the opportunity to look after them at the start of the week.”

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Trinidad & Tobago are ranked 93rd in the world – and Soca Warriors boss Dennis Lawrence had spoken before the game how he wanted his side to come up against Wales’ “world-class players”.

Lawrence, who spent five years at Wrexham between 2001 and 2006 and also played for Crewe and Swansea, said: “I was a bit surprised Gareth didn’t play.

“I thought they would have wanted the fans to get the opportunity to see him.

“But they made the decision that was best for Wales and for Gareth.”

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