Big Sam '“ '˜We have to deal with expecation'
Clarets striker Sam Vokes accepts that heightened expectation surrounding Wales means anything other than qualifying for the World Cup will be seen as failure.
Following their heroics at the European Championships in France during the summer, Chris Coleman’s men are now 11th in the FIFA rankings, where they are sandwiched by England and Spain.
And, if those standings are anything to go by, they’ll be favourites to progress to the World Cup in Russia from their group of six with Austria, ranked 30th on the globe, their closest rivals.
“We’ve had to learn to deal with that expectation,” said Vokes. “It’s obviously grown in a massive way with Wales to the point where we’re getting full home crowds now.
“It’s great to turn up and be part of that, but we need to deal with the fact that we’re expected to get out of this group.
“It’s important that we go in to every game mentally right because there are some tough teams out there, none more than Serbia.”
The free-scoring Serbians are the next test for the Dragons at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow. The pair shared a group for the last World Cup qualifiers, with Serbia winning 6-1 and 3-0.
“It’s a massive game for us against Serbia,” said Vokes. “I think against Georgia last time out the boys were a little disappointed because it was a game that we thought we’d get three points from.
“We need to pick the points up from this one and it’s back at home so we’re happy.
“We’ve played them a few times because they were in our last group for the World Cup. We know what they’re about, it’ll be a tough game because they’re top, but we’ll be prepared and we’re looking forward to it.
“With five months before the next one we don’t want to be looking back with any regrets. It’s important that we get what we want.”
Wales, however, go in to the fixture with their main threat in fine form, Ballon d’Or nominee Gareth Bale.
The one-time Spurs forward has netted three times for his country in the group stages to date and Vokes can feel the benefits of playing alongside one of the best players on the planet.
“It’s great for me. You can see that with the goal I scored earlier in the group stages. You see the quality that he delivers in to the box.
“To have that kind of player who you can make your runs off, knowing that the ball is always coming in, is great. He’s great to play alongside and it’s something that I look forward to.”