5 things we learned from Wales’ draw against Serbia

Wales kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive with a 1-1 draw against Serbia in Belgrade.

We look at five things we learned from the contest.

Wales need a maximum

Wales manager Chris Coleman gestures on the touchline during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group D match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, Belgrade (Simon Cooper/PA)
Wales manager Chris Coleman on the touchline during his side’s match in Serbia (Simon Cooper/PA)

Chris Coleman did not pull any punches as he digested Wales’ fifth successive draw of the campaign. Wales trail top two Serbia and the Republic of Ireland by four points with four games remaining and Coleman accepts there is no wriggle room left if they are to top Group D and claim the one definite qualification place on offer. Four wins and 12 points are required from home games against Austria and the Republic and away days in Moldova and Georgia. It is a tough ask, but not impossible if Wales can discover the ruthless edge which carried them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Ramsey is one cool dude

Wales' Aaron Ramsey  celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game from the penalty spot  (Simon Cooper/PA)
Wales’ Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game from the penalty spot (Simon Cooper/PA)

Aaron Ramsey did not know it at the time, but his act of extreme coolness came at the home of the Panenka penalty. Back in 1976, Czechoslovakia midfielder Antonin Panenka wrote his name into football folklore forever with the chipped penalty which decided a European Championship final shoot-out at West Germany’s expense.

More than four decades on, Ramsey produced a modern-day Panenka at the same Belgrade ground where the Czechs celebrated glory. Whereas Panenka’s penalty went down the middle, Ramsey’s was directed into the corner as goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic dived the other way. A touch of class.

Bale presence is vital

Wales and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale (Martin Rickett/PA
Wales and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale (Martin Rickett/PA

How Coleman could have done with Gareth Bale in his Belgrade line-up. Real Madrid forward Bale sat out his first competitive international game since August 2013 as he served a one-match suspension for picking up two bookings in the competition.

Wales did create chances in Bale’s absence and it is difficult to imagine that this proven match-winner would not have taken at least one of them had he been playing. With Bale’s ban out of the way ahead of the critical autumn qualifiers, the whole of Wales will be praying he proves the difference again – just as he was in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

No Joe show a worry

Joe Allen is suspended for Wales' qualifier against Austria (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
Joe Allen is suspended for Wales’ qualifier against Austria (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

Bale might provide the goals and Ramsey the vision, but it is Joe Allen who makes Wales tick. When Euro 2016 judges sat down to select their tournament XI last summer, Allen was in it – and, in truth, probably the first name on the team sheet. Allen’s uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time gets Wales back in possession and the Stoke midfielder rarely wastes a ball when he gets it. So his absence from September’s key qualifier against Austria after picking up a second booking of the competition presents a real headache that Coleman that could seriously do without.

Serbia have flaws

Serbia's Dusan Tadic challenges Wales' Ben Davies for the ball during their World Cup Group D qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
Serbia’s Dusan Tadic (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

The script was written. Serbia were ready to romp away with the group and leave the Republic, Wales and Austria fighting over second place and a November play-off spot. Except having tempted back the missing fans who have turned their back on them in recent times, Serbia promptly froze in front of them. Goalkeeper Stojkovic remains a liability, the defence is slowing up, and there is an over-reliance on Dusan Tadic for creativity and Aleksander Mitrovic for goals. It all adds up to this group being far from sorted, especially with Serbia still having to play away in the Republic and Austria.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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