Belfast Telegraph

Wales can shine without Bale to keep the dream alive, says Vokes

By Phil Blanche

Sam Vokes is set to win his 50th Wales cap in Serbia and is adamant Chris Coleman's experienced squad can prosper without Gareth Bale.

Vokes will miss his strike partner more than most tomorrow as Real Madrid forward Bale serves a ban for picking up two bookings in World Cup qualifying.

The onus on the Burnley striker to lead the line in Belgrade was also thrown into sharper focus when Hal Robson-Kanu withdrew from the squad with an injury on Thursday.

But Vokes is confident that Wales possess the necessary strength in depth to keep alive ambitions of reaching the finals in Russia next year.

"Of course we're going to miss Gareth," Vokes said. "But there's a good core group of players here who have a lot of caps. That's important because that experience comes into it.

"A lot of those lads have been in those situations before and are ready for the big atmosphere there. You have to deal with it at international level, and we've experienced it home and away.

"To go to these sort of places under pressure is something we know about."

Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales are unbeaten in Group D, but four successive draws have left them playing catch-up behind leaders Serbia and the Republic of Ireland. They are four points behind the top two at the halfway stage, and defeat in Belgrade would seriously undermine their qualification hopes.

"We've picked up draws when we've been the dominant team and needed to get the win," Vokes said. "It's time to stand up now and get those points we need on the board."

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