Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Gareth Bale to the rescue as Ryan Giggs admits qualifying for Euro 2020 'won't be easy' for Wales following Croatia draw

Welshman's 33rd international goal cancels out Vlasic's ninth-minute opener, leaving Wales needing to win their final two Group E qualifiers to stand a chance of reaching next year's finals

Ryan Giggs says Wales are still capable of reaching the Euro 2020 finals despite hopes resting on a knife-edge following a 1-1 draw with Croatia in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale's equaliser cancelled out Nikola Vlasic's opener for the Group E leaders, who still need a result from their final qualifier against Slovakia on November 16 to make certain of their place at next year's finals.

The point took Wales eight points from six matches to keep them fourth in the five-team group. Wins away to Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary next month would secure qualification, as long as Slovakia do not collect more than four points from their last two games.

"We need to win our next two games, and that's all we're concentrating on. It won't be easy but we're capable of it," Giggs said.

Once again it was Bale to the rescue as the Real Madrid forward scored his 33rd goal for his country.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies beat Mateo Kovacic and found Bale inside the box who placed his shot across Dominik Livakovic three minutes into first-half injury time at Cardiff City Stadium.

The forward has endured a difficult start to the season at Real Madrid, with manager Zinedine Zidane making clear over the summer he was determined to see Bale leave the Bernabeu.

A move never materialised, and with Madrid's early season struggles Zidane was forced to integrate Bale back into his plans. Though mostly used off the bench, Bale has contributed two goals as Real have climbed the table to now sit top of La Liga after eight matches.

For Giggs though, Bale's importance to the national team is never taken for granted. "When Gareth gets in those positions he never lets you down, just the composure, not many chances but when he does get them he puts them away."

Dalic, who led his country to the World Cup final in Russia last year, said their only remaining match of the campaign is crucial for their hopes of reaching the finals.

Croatia could have gone ahead through Josip Brekalo but the Croatia left-back's effort from outside the box sailed just wide of the upright.

The visitors did not have to wait too much longer as Brekalo broke down the left flank, found Bruno Petkovic inside the box who laid off the ball to Vlasic, who showed a silky touch to finish past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

"We started well, scored a goal but didn't continue in the same way," said Zlatko Dalic, the former Al Ain manager who last year led his side to the World Cup final.

"We're not very happy with the result. Our last game is now a deciding one for us."

Giggs batted away concerns that winger Daniel James suffered concussion following a heavy challenge from Croatia centre-back Domagoj Vida in the 14th-minute, saying the Manchester United winger had been "streetwise" in staying down to receive treatment.

"The physio came over but there was no problem," Giggs said. "We did all the [concussion] tests at half-time and he was fine.

"He stayed down and was a bit streetwise. He told the doctors 'I'm not moving, I'm just sitting still'.

"Not to get anyone sent off, he was just using his nous."

Updated: October 14, 2019 09:13 AM

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