Damaging defeat for Wales

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Wales' World Cup dreams were dealt a savage blow at the Millennium Stadium as they slipped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in their Group Four qualifier against an experienced Finland side.

Finland took the lead three minutes before the break when Jari Litmanen's pass sent former Charlton forward Jonatan Johansson clear to squeeze his shot home off a post.

And for all Wales' efforts, their young stars could not find a way through a well-drilled defence with Sami Hyypia outstanding at its hub. Substitute Shefki Kuqi scored the second with two minutes left.

With so much riding on the outcome, Wales' youngsters looked nervous from the start against a Finland side who were quicker to the ball and more fluid in their movement.

The hosts' best chance of the first half came after 23 minutes when Carl Fletcher's chip into the box was met by a diving header from James Collins, but saved well by Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Wales' attacks needed to be quicker and, when David Edwards surged forward and found Jason Koumas, Finland were opened up. Only a poor ball into the six-yard box from the Wigan man wasted the good work.

The next time Finland broke out of defence, after 42 minutes, they scored.

Collins was playing former Charlton man Johansson fractionally onside out on the right and the 33-year-old frontman reached a Litmanen through ball ahead of Wayne Hennessey to force an angled effort in off the near post, his 18th international goal on his 93rd appearance for his country.

It could have been two when Roman Eremenko found an unmarked Mikael Forssell in the box but a good tackle by Gareth Bale and a smothering save from Hennessey averted the danger.

Wales pushed in the second period but ran out of ideas and when Kuqi came on for Forssell with two minutes left, it was the Crystal Palace striker who got away on the left to ram home the crushing second goal with a minute left.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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David Edwards
Sami Hyypia
Carl Fletcher
Jussi Jaaskelainen
Shefki Kuqi
Jari Litmanen
Mikael Forssell
Wayne Hennessey
Wigan Athletic
James Collins
Crystal Palace
Gareth Bale
Charlton Athletic
Jason Koumas

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