Gareth Bale on taking Wales to UEFA EURO as team captain
Friday, 11 June 2021
"I'm match-fit, I'm ready. I'm sharp, I’m scoring goals," says the Real Madrid forward, 31.
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Having spent the season in England on loan with Tottenham, Wales captain Gareth Bale feels full of energy as he prepares to lead his side into UEFA EURO 2020.
At 31, Bale can call on his experience as part of the Dragons team that made it all the way to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2016 in what was their first final tournament since the 1958 FIFA World Cup. The Real Madrid forward gave us his thoughts ahead of this latest international challenge.
On qualifying for EURO 2020
In a way, it felt like we snuck in through the back door on the last day, which is what we did [beating Hungary 2-0 to finish second in their group], but the one thing we always show in this team and this country is that we never give up. We fought until the last game and managed to qualify, so it was amazing.
If you look at our history, I don’t think we’ve actually qualified properly before [EURO 2016]. So now, to do two in a row, it was a massive achievement for us. We’re definitely on the right track, and hopefully this is a stepping stone for further things in the future.
On EURO 2016
It was an incredible experience. It was one of those things that as a player you always want to do, play in a major tournament against the best international teams, and [it was] something that Wales hadn’t done before. It was something that we’d only watched on TV. But we took it in our stride and we tried to enjoy the occasion.
For me personally, the Russia game [a 3-0 win in the group stage] was the biggest and the best game that we played there. I know everyone will refer to the Belgium game [a 3-1 victory in the quarter-finals], but after coming off a loss against England, the way we did it, that’s the best football that I’ve been involved in for Wales. We dominated from start to finish, got a clean sheet, scored three goals. That’s the one game that really sticks out the most.
On Wales’ current squad
It's been great to have so many youngsters come through and obviously the older generation have helped them. We've let them know how we do things here and we’re trying to rub this off on them and give them that winning mentality that we have.
First and foremost, we can't really look further than getting out of the group. We know it's going to be three very difficult games [against Switzerland, Turkey and Italy] like it was first time around, and yes, we have to concentrate on trying to get out of the group first. I know it's a cliché, but we do have to take it one match at a time: the aim is to get out of the group and go from there.
On being captain
Even when we were in France [at EURO 2016] I know Ash [Ashley Williams] was the captain but we all took the pressure, we all worked together as a team. Just because one person's wearing the armband, it doesn't mean he has to do anything more. So we just need everyone to give 100%, to try their best and that's all we can ask from anyone.
I feel like I'm match-fit, I'm ready. I'm sharp, I’m scoring goals, so yes, I'm confident in my levels going into this. Whenever I come away with Wales, everyone sees how happy I am, how passionate I am, and whenever I cross that white line with a Wales shirt on, I’ll always give 100%.