Wales captain Gareth Bale. Pic: Getty Images.

No Bale-Out And No Simple Route To World Cup Qualification For Wales

By Paul Jones

There was no Bale-out this time for Wales, but the captain still insists believes World Cup qualification is achievable even though front door entry to the tournament now looks highly unlikely.

After being held at home, 0-0, by Estonia on Wednesday – an outcome Gareth Bale himself had flagged up as a possibility if his team were not spot on – Wales lost ground in the race for automatic qualification as Group E leaders Belgium were beating Belarus 1-0 in Kazan.

Belgium are now nine points clear of Wales, who have two games in hand and are more likely involved in a battle for second place with the Czech Republic.

The runners-up will qualify for the play-offs next March and Wales’ next two games are both away, to the Czech Republic and Estonia in October.

Bale had rightly stressed before the game that if Wales won all five of their remaining games, they would top the group and qualify automatically. Even four victories now offers no such guarantee.

“There’s still a long way to go and we can’t get too down on ourselves,” Bale told Sky Sports.

“There’s still a lot of games to go. We’ll take the positives from this and try to win the next game.


“I felt we played well. We played a lot better than we did on Sunday, but we didn’t win and that’s football for you.

“We moved the ball and we were a constant threat but we didn’t take our chances.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed. It’s frustrating.

“If you don’t finish your chances you don’t win games. “It has been a while since we had that many chances. We have to try to be more ruthless in the next game.”

Skipper Bale was Wales’ hat-trick hero on Sunday as his stoppage-time winner secured a dramatic 3-2 victory over Belarus.

But Bale could not spare Wales embarrassment this time against opponents ranked 110th in the world and who had conceded 15 goals in losing their three previous World Cup qualifiers.

The Real Madrid forward twice brought superb stops from teenage goalkeeper Karl Jakob Hein before seeing his late header come back off a post.

Wales boss Robert Page said: “It’s pure frustration. We started the game really brightly, we should have scored in the first minute and then it’s a different game.


“In the past sometimes we’ve won games late on. We’ve found a way to win and we’ve had the rub of the green.

“It’s dropped for us, but it didn’t this time and we weren’t quite clinical enough.

Page said concussion protocols were correctly followed when Harry Wilson suffered a first-half head injury.

Wilson collided with Hein and carried on for a few minutes before sitting on the turf and leaving the action.

Page said: “He’s OK. Protocols are in place for a head injury, he was fully aware of that.

“He didn’t feel right and he had to come off. It was blurred vision, I think.

“He’s been assessed and things will be sorted out for him before he goes back to his club.

“The medical team made him fully aware (of his situation), he wasn’t comfortable and he had to come off.”

“We’ve just got to be brave and take our chances when they come.”

Wales manager Robert Page. Pic: Getty Images.

“It’s one of those nights – we hit the keeper, hit the post, just went wide.

Bale came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock before a 21,624 crowd as fans returned to the Cardiff City Stadium in large numbers for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bale’s point-blank header was brilliantly saved by Estonia’s Arsenal teenager Karl Jakob Hein before the Real Madrid forward headed against a post late on as Wales pressure intensified.

This was the first competitive match between the two nations with Wales having won friendlies in 1994 and 2009.

Wales might have been awarded a 25th-minute penalty when Marten Kuusk handled Wilson’s cross but French referee Ruddy Buquet waved play on and the incident was not referred to VAR.

Wilson was forced off after taking a knock to the head and replaced by Jonny Williams, who had made a positive impact coming on as a second-half substitute against Belarus.


Wales breathed a huge sigh of relief after 38 minutes as Mattias Kait was invited to shoot from 20 yards and smacked the home crossbar.

Hein did not have a save to make in the first half but the 19-year-old produced a superb point-blank effort to stop Bale profiting from Ben Davies’ free-kick.

Joe Morrell then released Roberts through the middle and Hein stuck out a foot to divert the striker’s shot around the post.

Roberts soon made way for Mark Harris and the Cardiff striker’s excellent movement posed problems for opponents who were appearing to run out of steam.

Hein held on to a Bale header, pushed out another effort from the Wales captain who sent the rebound onto the post and then tipped away Joe Allen’s fierce drive.

Danny Ward stayed alert at the other end to deny Konstantin Vassiljev producing an Estonian sucker punch as Wales failed to score for the third time in four games.


One thought on “No Bale-Out And No Simple Route To World Cup Qualification For Wales

  1. Robert Page’s Plan A for the match against Estonia seemed to be a solid back four with 2 midfield shields, 3 creative players and a lone attacker unused to playing that position. This, despite the fact we were playing at home against a team ranked almost 100 places below us. When Plan A didn’t work, the manager removed the isolated centre forward and brought on another one, also totally unused to the role. So he went from Plan A to Plan A.

    The grand plan continued to show no signs of working properly. The minutes ticked on. Still no change, to score or formation. So he considered Plan B. Trouble was, he didn’t have a Plan B. How about getting Brennan Johnson to strip to his kit in the 92nd minute, stand on the touchline and then sit down again in the 95th minute? Funnily enough Plan B didn’t work either.

    I’m no football expert, but surely 2 defensive midfielders is a bit negative for a home game against one of the worst teams in Europe. The sight of Joe Morrell deep in the second half taking the ball on the halfway line for the umpteenth time, un-pressed by any opponent, surrounded by ball-playing defenders like Ampadu and Mepham, and spraying a 15 yard ball sideways to Chris Gunter gamely trying to puff up and down the line, while on the bench below me sat Johnson, Colwill, Woodburn, Smith and Levitt is a nightmare image I cannot quickly forget.

    And there are the looks on the players’ faces: Roberts, ashen-faced after missing a decent chance, getting hooked without so much as a consoling pat on the back; Johnson, perplexed, asking the 4th official how much time is left and wondering what the hell he can do with 2 minutes remaining; Woodburn, wondering if the boss even knows his name. Chris Coleman had many faults as a manager, but engendered a spirit within the team that was a powerful force allied to the talents of Bale and the rest. This young group seem a bit bullied and unsure of what is required of them – especially the forwards who have now, in a sublime bit of coaching, been told to be more ‘clinical’.

    I fear what will happen. We will not now qualify for the World Cup. We will go to Prague and get beaten by the Czechs. We will stumble through and probably drop points to Estonia or Belarus. Then we will be humbled at home by Belgium. Giggs will be found guilty or innocent but can never realistically come back to manage a national team. In disarray and dismal form, we will limp to the play-offs – thanks to the Nations League – and get beaten. The FAW will congratulate itself for getting all the way to the final qualification hurdle. Bale, Ramsey and Allen will retire. Meanwhile Welsh football will waste another generation of talented footballers like Brooks, James, Ampadu and the rest, with its controlling body unable to think bigger than appointing 3 central defenders with little or no top flight coaching experience as their managerial staff (Page said about Symons, ‘First and foremost, he’s a good bloke’. No, Robert, that’s not first and foremost for any role beyond that of best friend.)

    Of course, like the one-eyed optimist all Welsh fans are, I will keep turning up for every game with hope in my heart. Our Under 21s are looking good at the moment.

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