Wales joy as Azerbaijan re-instated

Last updated : 22 May 2003 By Michael Morris

Wales' dream of reaching the Euro 2004 finals has been given a boost after UEFA lifted the controversial ban on Azerbaijan which threatened to ruin the qualifying group which Mark Hughes' men head with a 100% record.

The decision was taken at a UEFA executive committee meeting in Seville this afternoon and it now means that Wales' fears their Group Nine campaign would be wrecked have proved unfounded.

Hughes and his players, preparing in California to play the USA in what will be the early hours of Tuesday morning back in the UK, were sound asleep while UEFA were making their deliberations.

But it was certainly a case of wide awake in America when confirmation of Azerbaijan's reinstatement reached the Welsh at what was breakfast time on the West Coast.

The Football Association of Wales international secretary Mark Evans told The Press Association: "It's great news, we had been very worried about what would happen to the group results since Azerbaijan had been banned.

"We have obviously talked a lot to officials and made our point.

"We felt it would have been so unfair on us after we had put so much work and effort into getting those two wins against Azerbaijan.

"We are only a small nation and it had obviously cost us a lot of money and effort.

"To have started expunging results with the group more than halfway completed was considered by us to be wrong.

"We would certainly have suffered most had our six points gone for the Azerbaijan wins, while Serbia and Montenegro would only have lost one point."