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Wales will honour Gary Speed against Costa Rica

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28 Feb 2012 16:16:54

Wales will honour Gary Speed against Costa Rica

Wales are set for an emotionally charged friendly when they take the field against Costa Rica on Wednesday for the first time since the death of manager Gary Speed.

British football was stunned by the death of the respected Speed, found hanged at his home in November.

Wednesday's fixture at the Cardiff City Stadium -- which the Football Association of Wales (FAW) have designated the Gary Speed Memorial Match -- is set to be the first occasion when Welsh players and fans alike can pay their respects to Speed.

Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, a close friend of Speed, will captain Wales for the first time since the 67-cap striker led his country in the Euro 2012 qualifying defeat in Montenegro in September 2010.

"For obvious reasons, Craig will lead the side tomorrow (Wednesday) night," Wales assistant coach Osian Roberts said on Tuesday.

"He knew Gary better than anybody, he is a close friend of the Speed family and it seems only right that he should lead Wales on the night."

Wednesday's match could be 32-year-old Bellamy's last for Wales as he is known to be pondering his international future.

That decision may be influenced by the resignation of Speed's assistant, Raymond Verheijen, on Friday.

The Dutchman was a popular figure with the likes of Bellamy and fellow senior Wales players such as Gareth Bale.

Verheijen urged the FAW not to disturb Speed's coaching set-up and let them carry on the work that had started under the former midfielder.

But instead Welsh football chiefs appointed former Fulham and Coventry City coach Chris Coleman -- who played for Wales alongside Speed -- as their new manager.

Verheijen had been due to lead Wales's preparations against Costa Rica but that all changed when he resigned, accusing the FAW of "political and destructive games".

Coleman made no secret of his mixed emotions after his appointment last month.

"I was very close friends with Gary, 30 years, so it's a difficult experience for me," he said.

"But I'm very proud to be the new manager and I'm also very sad because of the situation we find ourselves in."

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey captained Wales to four wins from their last five games prior to Speed's death but the 21-year-old midfielder will miss the Costa Rica clash because of an ankle injury.

Wales have not qualified for the finals of a major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup and Wednesday's match is designed to aid their bid to feature in the 2014 edition in Brazil.

"We haven't got a lot of time until September 7 against Belgium (in a World Cup qualifier) at home," Roberts said last week.

"It sounds a long way away but it's not -- it's about 10 or 11 days of preparation for us.

"It's a memorial match for Gary but he was the ultimate professional and he would not want us to be standing still."

Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has selected 14 overseas players among his 19-man squad.

The match will form part of Costa Rica's preparations for upcoming CONCACAF and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

It will be the Central American nation's first friendly of the year after a 2011 in which they drew with both Argentina and world champions Spain.


AFP

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