Bale out but Rodon back: the main talking points ahead of Czech Republic v Wales
Wales return to World Cup qualifying action against the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday.
The two countries are level on seven points, with Wales having a game in hand, and seemingly involved in a battle for second spot behind runaway group leaders Belgium.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points surrounding the Group E clash.
No Bale, no landmark
Gareth Bale was due to win his 100th cap in Prague, becoming only the second Wales men’s player to do so. Instead the Real Madrid forward is back in Spain nursing a hamstring injury that could also keep him out of next month’s closing World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Belgium. Bale’s absence is a huge loss for Wales as the 32-year-old captain continues to be their talisman, both on and off the pitch, and the Dragons must find a way to flourish without him.
Goal drought concern
Just where are Wales’ goals going to come from? They have been in painfully short supply in recent times and Bale is the only Wales player to score in the last five games – a match-winning hat-trick against Belarus last month. Aaron Ramsey’s return offers hope of goals from midfield, but it remains to be seen how much game-time he will get after his injury-hit season at Juventus. Kieffer Moore is also back after Covid-19 issues and he has a decent international goals record, but the Cardiff striker has endured a difficult campaign and scored only once this term.
The rise of Huddersfield’s Sorba Thomas is a real-life ‘Roy of the Rovers’ story. Thomas was playing in the National League at Boreham Wood in January, yet nine months on he has been named the Championship player of the month for August and won a place in the Wales squad. The 22-year-old admits he has had to ‘pinch himself’ training with the likes of Ramsey, but he could start in Prague with Bale and David Brooks ruled out by injury and illness.
Wales are grateful for the return of Joe Rodon. The Tottenham defender has had limited game-time in north London this season with only two starts, both coming in the Europa Conference League. But there is no doubt that Rodon, even at the tender age of 23, has emerged as Wales’ most important figure in central defence. Wales were shaky at the back in World Cup qualifying last month against group minnows Belarus and Estonia, and Rodon returns after missing the September camp through injury.
This is the fifth meeting between the two nations since the Czech Republic was formed in 1993 following the break-up of Czechoslovakia. Wales had previously played Czechoslovakia and the RCS (Representation of Czechs and Slovaks). The two countries shared a goalless draw in a 2002 Cardiff friendly before being paired together in Euro 2008 qualifying. Wales were beaten 2-1 in Prague before drawing 0-0 at home. Daniel James’ header secured a 1-0 home win in March during the current World Cup qualifying campaign.
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