Gareth Bale fully focused on keeping Wales at top table with victory over Poland

Gareth Bale file photo
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Gareth Bale is focused on Wales staying among the elite of European football as they seek to avoid being relegated from the Nations League like World Cup rivals England.

Wales must beat Poland at home on Sunday to remain in League A of the biennial competition.

Bale has not played 90 minutes since a World Cup qualifier against Estonia last September, but the Wales captain has declared himself fit for the must-win contest at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Wales v Estonia – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium

Gareth Bale, centre, has not completed 90 minutes since Wales’ World Cup qualifier against Estonia in September 2021 (Nick Potts/PA)

“It’s about testing ourselves against the biggest and best teams,” Bale said of the Nations League format.

“The goal is to play against the best teams and be in the highest league.

“Our plan is to try and stay in this league by getting the win. It can only benefit us when we play against good teams and test ourselves against the best players.

“That will only make us better as a team and as footballers.”

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Bale was part of the Wales squad who celebrated England’s shock round-of-16 exit at the hands of Iceland at Euro 2016.

The video of Wales players cheering on Iceland at their Brittany base after they had reached the quarter-finals two days earlier went viral when it was posted on social media.

Wales manager Robert Page said he had watched England’s 1-0 defeat by Italy on Friday that confirmed their Nations League relegation, but Bale revealed he had decided not to tune in.

He said: “I wasn’t watching, so I don’t really know what happened.

England v Iceland – UEFA Euro 2016 – Round of 16 – Stade de Nice

England’s defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 was celebrated by Wales players in a video posted on social media (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I am not too bothered, to be honest. We are just focusing on ourselves at the moment.”

Asked if the shaky form of England and the United States, Wales’ opening opponents in Qatar on November 21, had boosted them, Bale said: “No, because a World Cup, I imagine, is similar to a Euros.

“People will up their games, players might not be playing well but in two months’ time they’ll be playing better.

“Were not looking too much into the World Cup at the moment – we’re concentrating on Poland.

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“Of course, there’s things we’re working on for the World Cup we’re trying to implement now.

“When we get to the World Cup I’m sure we’ll start focusing on the other teams. But, whatever they’re doing now, is not exactly what they’re going to do in two months’ time.”

Already without the injured quartet of Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen, Wales picked up two costly bookings in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat in Belgium.

Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu are both suspended, with Ben Cabango and Joe Morrell the most likely candidates to fill the void.

Belgium v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group D – King Baudouin Stadium

Chris Mepham, left, was booked against Belgium on Thursday and misses the Nations League finale against Poland (Tim Goode/PA)

Manager Page said: “It was a big ask of the lads the other night. collectively they’ve covered the most distance we have in a couple of years.

“There’s no injuries, but a lot of fatigue we need to sort out to get ready.

“We’ll go all out to get the result we need to stay in the division.

“We’ve had the big players step up in the big games, look at Aaron against Hungary and Gareth recently.”

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