Fans of the Real Madrid forward will be disappointed to learn that he will not take part in football’s biggest showpiece event for next year after Wales’ 2018 World Cup hopes were crushed by the Republic of Ireland on Monday.
By SportBrief Reporter
A Gareth Bale-less Wales suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to the Republic of Ireland as their hopes of qualifying for Russia 2018 World Cup went up in smoke.
A solitary goal by James McClean’s earned the Republic of Ireland a victory that sends them into the qualifying play-offs at the expense of the Welshmen.
At a highly charged Cardiff City Stadium, the hosts controlled much of the first half but were frustrated by the stout defending and rugged physicality of their opponents. The Welshmen were without the services of their star man Gareth Bale, who was out through injury, and it showed as they failed to penetrate the Irish.
The Republic grew in confidence after the interval and their abrasive approach paid off as Jeff Hendrick dispossessed Wales captain Ashley Williams and set up McClean to score with a thumping half-volley.
Wales hurled bodies forward in a desperate late search for the two goals they needed to snatch the play-off place back from Martin O’Neill’s side, but they found their route to goal blocked by an unflinching Irish defence.
Although the game lacked quality on occasions, the high stakes made for an absorbing encounter.
Only victory would have guaranteed either team a place in the play-offs, while a win coupled with a Serbia defeat – or draw in Wales’ case – would have seen them qualify automatically.
However, Serbia’s home victory over Georgia rendered that scenario academic and secured their passage to next year’s tournament in Russia as Group D winners.