Heading into the final two matches of World Cup qualifying—away to Georgia and home to Ireland—Wales have been handed a blow in the form of an injury to main man Gareth Bale. The Real Madrid attacker suffered a calf strain against Borussia Dortmund last week in the Champions League, and has been ruled out for international duty.
It is wholly unreasonable for Welsh fans to pin their hopes on a player who won’t turn 18 for another two weeks, but that may just be the case. During the last international break the Liverpool starlet turned heads all over Europe when he scored a goal and assisted on another in his first two substitute appearances for his home country. In both cases, he helped open the scoring, and his goal against Austria proved to be decisive.
Heading into the two final matches, there is no room for error for Wales. They are second in the group on 14 points, 4 adrift from group leaders Serbia, and just one point ahead of Ireland. Moreover, because UEFA only grants playoff spots to 8 of the 9 group runners up, they will likely need to win both remaining matches to ensure a playoff spot.
Asking Ben Woodburn to fill in for Gareth Bale is, to put it mildly, a big ask. But the youngster has impressed so far on the international stage. If Woodburn can help lift Wales into the World Cup playoffs, it will only be more fuel for the runaway hype train. All aboard?