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Malcolm Allen column: Wales seeking defining moment in Serbia

Published date: 09 June 2017 |
Published by: Malcolm Allen
Read more articles by Malcolm Allen


Gareth Bale 

WALES will be searching for that defining moment of their qualifying campaign in Serbia on Sunday. 

We had it in qualifying for the Euros when we beat Belgium 1-0 at home, and it created the belief that we were good enough.

I was of the opinion a few months ago, before the Republic of Ireland game, that we needed to be in the mix at the halfway point of the group. 

And even though the game was there to be won over in Dublin, we still came away with a point after finishing with 10 men.

So with five games to go, we find ourselves four points behind the leaders Serbia. So the importance of this game is enormous, if we are to qualify for Russia next summer.

Yes, Serbia haven’t lost in 10 games, but we’re still unbeaten ourselves and we’ve taken the lead in four of the five games we’ve played. 

People talk to me about statistics with Gareth Bale in the team. Out of the last 15 goals we’ve scored, Gareth has scored 11 and had four assists. We’ve won one game without him in six years. So he’s going to be a big miss.

But as one door closes, another one opens and this will be an opportunity for us to see a glimpse of the future, although  Liverpool starlet Ben Woodburn won’t get the chance to fill Bale’s shoes. 

So, I think it’ll be Tom Lawrence who will take Bale’s role.

Unless he’s going to change the formation, I think Chris Coleman has two options to replace Neil Taylor. 

He could switch Chris Gunter to the left and put Jazz Richards in the right wing back position, or he could move Chris into central defence with Ashley Williams and James Chester, and have Jazz on the right and Ben Davies as left wing back.

Chris Coleman is a big believer in his 3-5-2 formation and the only changes I can see happening will be to personnel, and not the system.

I don’t want Chris Coleman’s success to be his failure, by being too loyal to some players who haven’t performed well enough to get into the team. 

If we lose, I can’t imagine what will happen to Cookie, because we won’t be able to qualify. And there wouldn’t be any point in him carrying on after he said that this will be his last campaign as Wales manager. 

I wasn’t very pleased when he said that, and it doesn’t send out the right signals to players and fans.

But enough of that, because I do not believe we will be defeated in Belgrade. Are we good enough to win without Gareth? 

Well, it’s going to be a game of few chances and we must take ours. A draw is ok but a win is what we need to re-ignite our hopes to qualify for the World Cup next summer.

We have only seven points with five games to go and we need to get to 19 or 20 points, so no less than four wins and one draw is the target. 

How big is this game? Well - lose, and we are out in my opinion; win, and it’ll give us the momentum to win the group.

Malcolm Allen is part of Sgorio presentation team. S4C will have live coverage of Wales’ qualifier  in Serbia on Sunday. Coverage starts at 7.15pm 

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