Gareth Bale can get Wales back on track in World Cup qualifying, says Ian Rush
By Allan Valente
Last Updated: 20/03/17 11:31am
Ian Rush hopes Gareth Bale can move closer to breaking his international goals record by helping Wales get their World Cup qualifying bid back on track in Dublin.
Wales take on the Republic of Ireland on Friday, live on Sky Sports, four points adrift of the Group D leaders but Rush says the presence of the Real Madrid forward after ankle surgery could prove the difference at the Aviva Stadium.
Chris Coleman's side are third and unbeaten in qualifying, though their World Cup ambitions hang in the balance following draws with Austria, Georgia and Serbia but Bale has already scored four times in the group to move within two of equalling Rush's 28-goal record for Wales.
"It's massive for Wales that Bale is there after his injury problems," Rush said. "He's been the most improved player in the world over the last couple of years and, as we've seen many times before, he is capable of winning a game with a moment of magic.
"Martin O'Neill is a very cautious manager and will do everything he can to stop Wales counter-attacking the Republic. But it is almost impossible to keep someone of Gareth's ability quiet for 90 minutes."
He added: "Records are there to be broken, I've never worried about them. I've always thought someone would break my record one day, and if you're going to lose it then it may as well be to one of the best players in the world. In fact, I'd like to see him break the record in Dublin because it would mean he's got a hat-trick.
"I never qualified for a World Cup, but I'm a fan now and I want to see Wales play at one in Russia. If Gareth is scoring goals then Wales are probably winning and have the best chance of being there.
"You saw how much it meant to the country last summer when Wales reached the semi-finals of the Euros."
The Republic have put themselves in a strong position to reach Russia as four of their final six games are at home. Wales, meanwhile, follow their trip to Dublin with another tough away assignment against second-placed Serbia in June.
"There's a lot riding on this game, more for Wales than Ireland," Rush said. "We did more than enough to beat Serbia in our last game but could not see it out. But there's still a long way to go in this group and teams will continue to take points off each other.
"Georgia have done that by drawing in Wales and Ireland were lucky to beat them in Dublin. But I think Wales need four points out of the next six to stay in with a chance of finishing top of the group."