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Gareth Bale: Wales are moving forward under Ryan Giggs

Gareth Bale has responded to fierce criticism of Wales’ recent performances by insisting they are making progress under Ryan Giggs.

Bale rescued Wales on Friday with a late winner in the 2-1 victory over Azerbaijan – opponents ranked 109 in the world and 85 places below Giggs’ side.

The goal kept Wales’ hopes of automatic Euro 2020 qualification alive, cutting the gap to Group E pacesetters Croatia and Hungary to three points at the halfway stage of the campaign.

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But Wales supporters were clearly disillusioned with the performance, taking to radio phone-in shows and social media to express their dissatisfaction.

Manager Giggs bore the brunt of the criticism but Real Madrid star Bale, speaking before Monday’s friendly against Belarus in  Cardiff, said Wales were moving in the right direction.

Asked if Wales were improving, Bale said: “Yes. I think we’re still working on things. There’s things we’re improving on.

“We’re working on his style of play, what he wants us to do and sometimes it does take a bit of time.

Wales v Azerbaijan – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium

Ryan Giggs was criticised after the performance against Azerbaijan (Nick Potts/PA)

“I think that’s why it’s good now to have a friendly. We can still work on things instead of training.

“A match situation is always more intense and difficult to do things than in training.

“We still want to keep that winning mentality and get that momentum building, and by winning games that’s what you do.”

Wales return to Euro 2020 qualifying action next month with a double-header away to Slovakia and at home to Croatia.

Even if they fail to finish in the top two and book an automatic place in next summer’s finals, Wales are well-placed to make the play-offs through the new qualifying system via last year’s Nations League performances.

“I wouldn’t be here otherwise, I wouldn’t be wasting my time,” Bale said about Wales’ qualification hopes.

“I love trying to qualify for major tournaments. Having that taste of it at Euro 2016 gives you that hunger to do it again and to experience what we did.

“We all still fully believe we can. We hope the public still believes and give us all the support we need because they’re the 12th man.

“They give us that extra bit of energy that we need on the pitch, like they did on Friday.”

Wales v Azerbaijan – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium

Gareth Bale could start against Belarus (Nick Potts/PA)

Bale – who is not playing next weekend as he serves a one-match suspension at Real – is fit for the Belarus friendly and could start.

Tottenham defender Ben Davies and Charlton midfielder Jonny Williams are likely to be recalled.

Giggs said some Wales fans needed a reality check after the Azerbaijan win, saying: “Expectations are huge now because we qualified for the Euros (in 2016).

Croatia v Wales – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Stadion Gradski Vrt

Ryan Giggs understands the frustration of Wales fans (Adam Davy/PA)

“Even that fantastic team in Andorra struggled. People just remember the good times, and we’re never ever going to be a team that wins 3-0 or 4-0 and blows teams away often.

“It will happen because we’ve got talented players. You can understand the criticism, but the fans have not watched Croatia play Azerbaijan at home – I have.

“I knew it was going to be a difficult game. Fans don’t think it will be because of the players we’ve got, but international football is not easy.”

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