Gareth Bale

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Bale, Dzeko, Sanchez headline stars on World Cup sidelines

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo just made it. Gareth Bale, Edin Dzeko and Alexis Sanchez weren’t as fortunate.

While only 23 of the 32 qualifiers for next year’s World Cup have been determined, there’s already a long list of high-profile players who have missed the cut.

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Here’s a 3-4-3 lineup of some of the biggest names who will be watching the action in Russia from the sidelines:


Jan Oblak, Slovenia: The most expensive goalkeeper in the Spanish league at Atletico Madrid, the 24-year-old Oblak was included in the last two Champions League squads of the season.


Antonio Valencia, Ecuador: A reliable, hard-to-pass, attacking right back and captain for Manchester United, Valencia plays in midfield for Ecuador.

Virgil Van Dijk, Netherlands: An imposing center back for Southampton, Van Dijk has been targeted for a transfer by Premier League rivals Liverpool and Chelsea.

David Alaba, Austria: This versatile left back has been a regular for Bayern Munich for the past six years.


Arturo Vidal, Chile: Part of Chile’s golden generation that helped the team to the 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles, the 30-year-old Vidal retired from his national team after a 3-0 loss to Brazil left Chile out on goal difference.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenia: A top assist man at Manchester United, Mkhitaryan is one of the most creative players in the Premier League.


Arjen Robben, Netherlands: Another Bayern Munich veteran who announced his international retirement after a failed qualification campaign, Robben won the bronze ball award when he helped the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final.

Christian Pulisic, United States: A player with the potential to become the U.S. team’s first real international standout, the 19-year-old Pulisic has already broken a series of “youngest” records with Borussia Dortmund and the United States.


Alexis Sanchez, Chile: Another member of Chile’s golden generation, Sanchez has been an able scorer wherever he’s gone, from Udinese in Serie A to Barcelona in Spain and now in his fourth season at Arsenal in the Premier League.

Edin Dzeko, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Last season’s Serie A scoring leader at Roma, this old-fashioned center forward is a lethal finisher.

Gareth Bale, Wales: A multi-talented threat for Real Madrid, Bale led Wales to the semifinals of last year’s European Championship – which remains his only major international tournament.

AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas in Manchester, England contributed.

More AP World Cup coverage:

Wales beats Georgia 1-0 in World Cup qualifying

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TBILISI, Georgia (AP) Wales beat Georgia 1-0 away without injured star Gareth Bale on Friday to keep alive its chances of qualifying automatically for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Tom Lawrence scored the winning goal for the 2016 European Championship semifinalists in the 49th minute, when he spun his marker and sent in a low shot from 20 meters that proved too powerful for the goalkeeper to keep out.

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Wales moved a point behind Serbia, which plays Austria later Friday and can guarantee first place in Group D with a win in Vienna.

Third-placed Ireland must beat Moldova at home to stay within a point of Wales, ahead of a meeting between the two Celtic rivals in Cardiff on Monday in the final round of qualifiers.

If the Serbs fail to beat Austria, they can clinch qualification with a win at home to Georgia on Monday.

Bale was missing for the Welsh at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi because of a calf muscle strain, sustained while playing for Real Madrid. He will also miss the match against Ireland.

The group winner qualifies automatically for the finals in Russia. The best eight second-place finishers from the nine groups in the European zone advance to the playoffs.

Bale out up to a month, Wales’ World Cup hopes take huge hit

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Wales is in quite a predicament when it comes to turning its EURO heroics into a World Cup run.

Already looking like a UEFA playoff is its only route to Russia — Wales sits four points back of Russia with two matches to play — the Dragons will be without star attacker Gareth Bale for both of this week’s World Cup qualifiers and the potential playoffs in November.

[ MORE: Van Dijk open to January move ]

The 28-year-old Real Madrid star has a calf strain, and could be out of action for a month.

Wales has not been beaten in qualifying, but has five draws in eight matches. The Dragons sit last on the table of second-placed teams, which would have them outside the playoff picture.

That’s if they finish second at all.

Wales faces eliminated Georgia on Friday before returning home for a match against third-place Republic of Ireland on Monday. Ireland sits a point back of Wales.

Neither Wales nor Ireland can claim an automatic spot should leaders Serbia win at Austria on Friday or home to Georgia on Monday.

Bale has only missed one Welsh match since March 2016, a 1-1 draw with Serbia, but the Dragons have not won a match without him since 2014 World Cup qualifying (3D-3L).

Gareth Bale out injured for Wales’ crucial World Cup qualifiers

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Wales will be without their talisman for their final two 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Gareth Bale will not feature against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland as he has failed to recover from a calf injury he picked up in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League last Tuesday.

This is a huge blow for Chris Coleman’s side as they currently sit four points behind Group D leaders Serbia heading into the final two games of qualifying.

That means Wales are battling it out with the Republic of Ireland, who they host in Cardiff next Monday, for second spot which will likely see them go into a playoff for a spot at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

28-year-old Bale is Wales’ second highest all-time leading goalscorer (just two goals behind Ian Rush’s record of 28) and in his absence the likes of Sam Vokes, Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu will have to step up to try and deliver the goals they need to at least seal a playoff spot.

Bale has scored four of Wales’ 12 goals so far in qualifying but has often been battling through injuries when it has come to international games over the past 12 months.

Now that he is out, the prospect is very real that the EURO 2016 semifinalists are in danger of missing out on qualifying for the World Cup, which would be their first tournament since the 1958 competition in Sweden.

UCL roundup: Ronaldo, Bale shine for Real; Liverpool flustered (video)

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Gareth Bale scored and then set up Cristiano Ronaldo for the first of two goals as Real Madrid won for the first time at Dortmund, one of the many highlights of a busy Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

As for the Premier League sides, Liverpool was frustrated at Spartak Moscow while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur picked up shutout wins.

And be sure to check out Lorenzo Insigne’s (eventual) celebratory honor for a fallen Napoli teammate.

Sevilla 3-0 Maribor

Wissam Ben Yedder has goals in both of Sevilla’s UCL qualifiers and now both group stage matches after netting a 27th minute marker in Spain. He added another before the break, completing a hat trick with a late penalty.

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool — RECAP

Loris Karius will not enjoy the replay of a 23rd minute free kick given away by Philippe Coutinho, and he especially won’t enjoy his slow reaction to a free kick from Fernando (not that Fernando) which was not hit too near a post.

Coutinho made amends with a solidly struck equalizer just after the half-hour mark, working a 1-2 with Mane and lacing a shot beyond the hopes of Rebrov.

Besiktas 2-0 RB Leipzig

A man with a Liverpool connection is on the board in the form of Ryan Babel, and Anderson Talisca added a marker before halftime to double the Turkish side’s lead.

Manchester City 2-0 Shakhtar DonetskRECAP

Man of the Match almost certainly belongs to Kevin De Bruyne — don’t tell Fabian Delph-loving Pep Guardiola — who missed a first half chance but did not miss a second half chance. Raheem Sterling scored City’s other goal.

Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a pair of goals to help Real Madrid to its first ever win at Dortmund.

Gareth Bale’s 18th minute goal has the double-defending champions up at the Westfalenstadion. Cristiano Ronaldo added to the lead in the 50th minute, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needed just four minutes to put Real’s advantage back in the balance.

Ronaldo added a second goal late in the contest, and USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic played the final 15 minutes for BVB.

By the way, this was somehow not a penalty:

Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

A sneaky side to watch in the tournament, Napoli led through Lorenzo Insigne and doubled its advantage thanks to Dries Mertens. Coincidentally, there may not be a pair of more under-appreciated superstars in world football.

Jose Callejon added a 70th minute goal for Napoli, who had a funny moment when Insigne tried to salute injured striker Arkadiusz Milik (below). Sofyan Amrabat, younger brother of ex-Watford man Nordin, scored late for Feyenoord.

Monaco 0-3 Porto

Cameroon star Vincent Aboubakar scored twice against Ligue 1 opposition, and Mexico’s Miguel Layun completed the evening’s list of goals.

APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

Harry Kane, guys and girls. The English striker beat an offside trap to a Toby Alderweireld pass and bested the keeper in the 39th minute, and added a pair in the second half to make it 11 goals for club and country in September.