Football: Muscle strain puts Bale out of World Cup qualifiers

Gareth Bale was once the most expensive footballer when he moved from Tottenham to Real Madrid for €100 million (S$160.1 million) in 2013.
Gareth Bale was once the most expensive footballer when he moved from Tottenham to Real Madrid for €100 million (S$160.1 million) in 2013.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' final two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Ireland, opening up the possibility that one of football's biggest stars could be absent from Russia next year.

His fitness has been a source of concern for the national side since he suffered a calf muscle strain against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week.

The 28-year-old then missed Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Espanyol in LaLiga on Sunday.

"The Football Association of Wales can confirm that Gareth Bale will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Republic of Ireland," said a Football Association of Wales statement yesterday.

"Following dialogue with Real Madrid, Bale was sent for a scan and results confirmed that he wouldn't be fit to feature."

Wales are second in Group D, four points behind leaders Serbia and one point above Ireland.

If they can cement second spot, Chris Coleman's team may earn a play-off spot reserved for eight of the nine group runners-up.

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    Goals Gareth Bale scored for Wales during their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Wales realistically need at least four points from the matches on Friday, away to Georgia, and next Monday, at home to Ireland, to secure a play-off berth.

Wales are bidding to reach the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1958, without their talisman.

Bale - once the most expensive footballer when he moved from Tottenham to Real for €100 million (S$160.1 million) in 2013 - has scored four of Wales' 12 goals during this campaign.

Wales have failed to win a match without the forward since 2013, drawing three and losing three games.

His absence could open the door for Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn to make his first Wales start. The 17-year-old made a dramatic introduction last month when he scored the winner within five minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute against Austria.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'Muscle strain puts Bale out of World Cup qualifiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe