“When you wear the shirt, you go to another level,” declared Rob Page. The Wales captain reiterated: “The big players perform in the big games. They have always done that.” One thing that is also beneficial for his stars: after the semi-final against Austria, the possible final for the World Cup kick-off will not wait until June because the match between Scotland and Ukraine has been postponed.
Bell has already announced that the trip to Qatar at the end of the year will be his wish. It will follow the finals of the European Championship 2016, in which only Britons reached the semi-finals. “It has always been important for me to play in a major tournament for Wales. By participating in the World Cup we will mark the last item on the list. We all dream about it,” said the Cardiff-born winger.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in the starting lineup for the World Cup qualifier against Austria. Wales’ stars may have been injured recently, but the team is optimistic.
Always heart and soul for Wales
While Bale suffers from near-permanent injury and a lethargy at Real Madrid with a reported salary of €700,000 a week, the attacking star is always fighting with body and soul for the “dragon”. He has made 100 caps so far. The Welsh record holder is Chris Gunther with 106 appearances internationally.
Ramsey who is still active is also on the current squad. The defender has played 71 matches with the Wales national team so far. The long-time Arsenal player also suffered injuries after moving to Juventus Turin. Ramsey played only three league games with Juventus this season before moving to Glasgow Rangers. He has played 133 minutes in the league for the Scots since January, and Ramsey completed almost the entire game in the weekend.
Bale played 77 minutes with Real since Wales beat Belarus 5-1 last November. He skipped Sunday’s Clasico. It wasn’t a factor in the Champions League either: he was injured in the group stage, three minutes as a substitute in the round of 16 against PSG. David Alaba, who moved to Real Madrid last summer, can count the number of joint appearances on one hand.
Team boss Paige has brushed off concerns about the fitness of his star player, Bale. The fact that the attacking man was not even in the squad at the weekend due to injury should not play a part in the duel with Austria. “I’m not worried. He’s had a good two days of training now. The day before the Cardiff game, he’s had a good day,” Page said. But what exactly was hitting Bale remained a mystery.
“I am ready”
While Spanish media have reported back problems, neither Page nor Bale themselves wanted to comment. There was talk of “little diseases”. “But everything is fine and I have no problems,” the 32-year-old said. “I’ve been in great shape over the past few days. I’m ready.” According to Page, all the players called up are available. Sanctions have also been applied. “But we want to be able to decide on that in 90 minutes,” Page said. “We are expecting a tough game. Austria is a good team. But we will throw everything into this game.”
Needless to say, Bale must play a crucial role on his way to only participating in the World Cup for the second time after that in 1958. According to media reports, he left Madrid on Thursday night for Cardiff. In Spain, that was not necessarily appreciated. The striker spoke of one of the “biggest matches” of his career. “We want to go to the World Cup. It’s a big opportunity, we have to be ready.”
Nice handshake with Alaba before kick-off
Of course he talked about the match with fellow club Alaba, Bale said. “We know it’s a big game for both teams. He’s just as excited as me,” said the Welshman. “He saw that the starting position was balanced. There’s a lot at stake for both teams.” With Alaba there will be “a nice handshake before kick-off,” said the Welsh captain. In fulfillment of the motto: “May the best win.”
Page expressed his admiration for the camaraderie and team spirit of his team at the online press event. “We deserve where we are. We have a good balance at the moment and we are confident of the match,” said the 47-year-old.
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