Thoughts on Serbia v Wales
The big game is almost upon us. By the time of kick off Wales could be seven points behind Ireland, who are home to Austria earlier in the day. Serbia already are four points clear so this makes this match vital in the battle to quality for The World Cup in Russia.
To get you in the mood for the game we have asked a number of our Welsh footballing friends on their thoughts on the game and their predicted scoreline. Enjoy!
Bryn Law, Sky Sports
“It’s strange how quickly things change isn’t it? Three years ago we’d be saying this is great, still unbeaten midway through the campaign and still in with a chance of qualifying! One mad summer later, it’s almost the end of the world as we know it.. unless we win. In the spirit of miserable old gits who’ve experienced a lot of failure following Wales, I’ll say home win. Not by as many as last time but by a few, 3 maybe? That should do the trick.”
Gareth Taylor, Podcast Pel-droed
“I’m not optimistic. We have a woeful record in the Balkans although hopefully a squad that got to a Euro Semi Final are unlikely to share my superstitious fan pessimism. Several will however remember the debacle in 2012 and other slightly less notorious recent failures in Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia. Added to that, our failure to see out the home game feels more and more like one of the fine margins which hindsight will reveal to have been significant in any failure to qualify. Serbia will have been boosted by that and a comfortable win in Georgia. We seem more and more like creeping self doubt is setting in. They win and they’ve got one foot in Russia. We must win or we’re dead and buried. I know which team will be feeling more confident.
And that’s before anyone mentions Bale. In a weird way his absence might help freshen things up. At different times so far we’ve been either complacent post-Euros or confidence has drained as results have been thrown away. Our defensive shape and solidarity has waned and we’ve been too reliant on Bale moments. Something will have to change and we’ll have to learn to get a result without him. He hasn’t missed a competitive match for 21 games so this has been coming.
Hopefully we’ll see more attacking variety and dynamism from our full backs, it’s time to have a go with Ben Davies on the left. One plus is Ramsey ending the season in form and his axis with Allen needs to click more than ever in a Bale-less XI. Both of these areas of the team need to be used to get the best out of whichever limited striking option we go with. Vokes is on form at club level and he was actually one of our better-ish threats in Ireland. Now’s the time for him to have a big game in a Wales shirt. Without Bale we’ll probably see a front three with a bit less flexibility but a clearer balance and shape. That might suit him.
It’s also time to be careful with our discipline. They’ll appeal for everything and we’ve got four more key players one yellow away from suspension.
Others at Podcast Pel-droed are more encouraged by the freshening up of the squad than me. It seems more like forced replacements due to the unavailability of several squad players rather than the culmination of the development of Evans, Wilson, Jones etc into fully-fledged international players. If we need to change things we’ll be short of any options that are going to give the Serbs much to think about.
I think the time for Woodburn and some of those others will come but we’re lacking many players in their early twenties and with the quality to put pressure on the first team now. Lawrence, Huws, Bradshaw? The jury is very much still out. But you never know, maybe one of them can become a hero. Lawrence is the most likely to feature in some capacity and he’s had a good season at Ipswich. But being the difference in Serbia is a big ask.
I don’t know. It just feels like the sort of game on which pre-2016 campaigns often received the final nail in the qualification coffin. Heart says we snatch a draw. Head says we lose 2–0.”
Scott Salter, Editor in-Chief, InBedWithMaradona
“All things considering, I think I it’s a good result. We’ve not been at our best and with Bale missing, a draw away from home is a positive result to build on. Belgrade isn’t an easy place to go.”
The Barry Horns
“Toughest game of the campaign. I think we’re looking at a 2–0 or 3–0 defeat. But don’t want to spread my pessimism!”😅
Mark Evans, DialM For Merthyr
“I fancy us to go to Belgrade and repeat that pivotal result in Baku when this team battled to an impressive 1–0 win despite illness, poor pitch and a hostile environment. Tough opponents in Serbia but we have the players to win.”
Mark Pitman, Football Writer UEFA.com
“Wales have now reached the ‘must-win’ stage of the campaign but will need to do it without their talisman. Gareth Bale’s suspension passes the responsibility over to Aaron Ramsey to provide the world-class contribution, and while it will be a tough game for any youngster coming into the side, Wales showed enough in the home match against Serbia to be confident in their approach. Time to believe, Serbia 1–2 Wales.”
Josh Slack, Y Ddraig
“2–2. Believe an open game could be on the cards. We need to go for it and be clever, Vokes was in exceptional form towards the end of the season and has the potential to cause all kinds of problems. Ramsey will also have to replicate what he did at the Euros — both him and Allen need big games for us to get something in what is set to be a daunting clash for us in Belgrade.”
Ben Leggatt, Y Ddraig
“Wales 2–1 Serbia. A bit optimistic, but I feel that we’ve got the chance to shock a Serbian team who might be thinking that we’ll struggle without Bale. A big start is needed, and if we score early on (which I’m hoping we will), then I can see us doing well!
I also think it’ll be a night to realise how far we’ve come as a footballing Nation since the 6–1 loss a few years ago, and hopefully we can serve a bit of revenge for that result with a good performance!”
Tomas Knox, Y Ddraig
“1–1. Will push to the end but a win might just be too much given the absence of Bale. However, if Lawrence is on top form and Vokes is deployed effectively, who knows? Hopeful of a Welsh victory and a Harry Wilson masterclass!”
Ben Catton, Y Ddraig
“0–1 Wales. Something tells me it’s going to be a tense one in Belgrade, Bale will of course be a huge miss for Wales but with that comes a chance for some young Welsh talent. Hopefully Lawrence can keep his club form up at international level and young Harry Wilson can also cause danger. I feel like Ramsey is going to have a superb game fresh from scoring the winner at Wembley in the FA Cup final, everyone knows how vital he is in the setup of this Wales XI. Williams from a corner, 0–1 Wales.”
Dan Lewis, Y Ddraig
This is another tough game to call, but unlike the game in Dublin — which was always nailed on to end in a draw — I think there will be a winner in Belgrade. These end-of-season fixtures always come at the wrong time, with some players not kicking a ball for five weeks, yet we have famously defeated Belgium and Slovakia on this same day in the last two years. With that in mind I’ll go with a 2–1 away win!”
Craig Muncey, Y Ddraig
“Toughest match of the campaign I always thought this one would be. Massive test for Coleman and the boys. Interesting to see how Wales line up with the injuries and suspensions. I would like to see a back four with Ben Davies playing at left-back, a three man midfield of Joe Allen, David Edwards and Joe Ledley, with Edwards and Ledley playing either side of Allen, with their athleticism supporting the full backs both when in possession and without. Then two in advanced positions, which I would have Tom Lawrence and Aaron Ramsey, with Sam Vokes leading the line.
Big opportunity if selected for Lawrence to announce himself on the international stage, has the ability to have a positive impact today, and this could be his moment. Set pieces, Wales could get some joy today if the delivery is good, Wales have some good options aerially. I am going for yet another draw in this campaign, 1–1.”
So there you have the thoughts of Y Ddraig and other Welsh football fans, big thanks to them for sharing their thoughts with us. What are your predictions? Please share on one of our various platforms, website y-ddraig.co.uk, Facebook page, Y Ddraig or Twitter, @yddraighq
Thanks everyone, enjoy the game and come on Wales!