07 September 2021

Will Wales need another Bale-out in World Cup qualifier against Estonia?

07 September 2021

Wales play Estonia in a 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

Victory would take Wales – who beat Belarus 3-2 in dramatic fashion on Sunday – into second spot behind Group E leaders Belgium.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the Cardiff City Stadium clash.

In Bale Wales trust

Gareth Bale celebrates Wales’ World Cup qualifying win against Belarus on Sunday (Alexei Nasyrov/AP) (AP)

The full list of superlatives for Gareth Bale ran out in Wales a long time ago. For this is a man who almost single-handedly dragged his nation to a first major tournament in 58 years and, when he got there, he galvanised Wales to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Bale’s desire to inspire Wales knows no bounds but, even by his own lofty standards, his performance against Belarus was extraordinary. The 32-year-old’s second international hat-trick, including a stoppage-time winner, took his record goals tally to 36 in 98 games. More importantly, it kept Wales’ World Cup qualifying dream alive.

Rodon return needed

Wales’ defensive frailties were badly exposed in Kazan as Lokomotiv Moscow striker Vitaly Lisakovich proved too hot to handle. Chris Mepham and James Lawrence looked an uncomfortable centre-back pairing and Belarus should have been out of sight at half-time. Ethan Ampadu is available against Estonia after visa issues prevented him from travelling to Russia. But the news Joe Rodon has joined up with the squad after injury is a huge boost as the Tottenham man is the best centre-back that Wales possess.

What next for Wilson?

Harry Wilson has had a difficult few months in a Wales shirt (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

Harry Wilson’s last contribution in a competitive Wales fixture was to kick Denmark defender Joakim Maehle at Euro 2020 and get sent off. Wilson’s international fortunes were little better last week when his penalty in the Helsinki friendly against Finland was saved. Wilson was banned for the Belarus qualifier but he has been in good form for new club Fulham. Wilson has scored twice in three games (he was sent off in the other) since his summer move from Liverpool and is expected to have a big part to play in the number 10 role against Estonia with Aaron Ramsey injured.

State of the group

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has fired Belgium to the top of Wales’ World Cup qualifying group (Raul Mee/AP) (AP)

Wales’ dramatic late win against Belarus kept them within touching distance of Belgium, seven points behind the world’s top team with two games in hand. But Belgium have shown little sign of slipping up and Romelu Lukaku’s 67th goal on his 100th appearance fired them to a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday. Belgium have 13 points and 20 goals from five games. Wales’ more achievable ambition is beating the Czechs to second spot and booking a play-off place in March. Victory against Estonia would lift Wales two points above the Czechs with a game in hand ahead of their trip to Prague next month.

Wales’ winning record

Robert Earnshaw celebrates scoring from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win when Wales last met Estonia in May 2009 (Barry Coombs/PA) (PA Archive)

The two countries have met twice – but never in a competitive fixture. The first meeting came in a Tallinn friendly in May 1994, two years after Estonia’s first FIFA-recognised match as an independent nation following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Wales won 2-1 with Ian Rush and David Phillips scoring before Martin Reim pulled one back for Estonia from the penalty spot. Bale and Ramsey were in Wales’ youngest-ever starting line-up when the Dragons won a May 2009 friendly 1-0. Robert Earnshaw’s 26th-minute penalty secured the Llanelli victory.

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