Giggs bows out with Czech draw

On his final appearance for his country, Ryan Giggs helped Wales hold Czech Republic to a goalless draw in a Group D UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier at the Millennium Stadium.

The point took the Czech Republic top of the pool, one above Germany who now have two games in hand. In contrast, Wales sit in fifth position after their hopes of reaching the EURO 2008 final were all but extinguished.

Wales captain Giggs ended his 16-year international career by pocketing his 64th cap, having explained earlier this week that, at the age of 33, he felt he could not give his best for both English champions Manchester United, his only senior club, and his country.

In a goalless first half, Wales showed plenty of resilience and some neat touches up front against their highly regarded opponents. The Czechs had plenty of possession but rarely threatened.

Wales's best effort was a Giggs free-kick over the crossbar, while novice home goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, in his first competitive international, produced a fine diving save from Tomas Rosicky's 25-yard shot. Hennessey, 20, who won his first cap in last week's 2-2 friendly draw against New Zealand, was playing because of Danny Coyne's knee injury sustained in the game against the southern hemisphere side.

Wales started brightly with Koumas's pass to Craig Bellamy just cut out when the striker was waiting to pounce, while Giggs's 13th minute free-kick curled over the crossbar of Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.

But the likes of Jan Koller amd Milan Baros remained a threat. Rosicky also went close in the 18th minute and James Collins then charged down a Koller attempt.

Simon Davies, Bellamy and Koumas all combined three minutes before the break, forcing Cech into his first save of the match.

Baros was replced at half-time by Marke Kulic. Koumas then came agonisingly close for Wales in the 50th minute when his curling free-kick from 20 yards hit Cech's right post with the keeper beaten.

Giggs then produced a moment of fine solo brilliance, running at the Czech defence with a superb 50 yard sprint that saw him beat several defenders, only for Cech to beat away a shot high to his right. But at the other end Hennessey had to be sharp to keep out a shot from Kulic.

However, Wales were undaunted and a neat free-kick move on the edge of the box almost saw Bellamy played in before Cech gathered safely.

And with two minutes to go, Giggs was substituted and the crowd rose to salute their hero, replaced by Robert Earnshaw, with Wales manager John Toshack the first to shake the skipper's hand after the winger had acknowleged the fans' support with some applause in response to that offered by spectators.

But Giggs, like so many Wales stars of recent times, quit international football never having played in the final stages of a major tournament, his country's last such appearance coming at the 1958 FIFA World Cup™.