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.

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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).