AL RAYYAN (Qatar), Nov 25 ― A record 110th cap will not mean nearly as much to Gareth Bale unless it comes with a win when Wales play Iran today in a World Cup Group B showdown that could ultimately determine which country gets through to the last 16.
Wales’s talisman forward delivered, as he has so many times, by converting a late penalty to secure a 1-1 draw with the United States in their opener and will be counted on again in what amounts to a must-win game for both sides.
“I haven’t really been focusing too much on the cap thing to be honest,” said Bale, who will move past Chris Gunter as Wales most capped men’s player. “I’m just trying to focus on the game.
“Obviously, on a personal level it’s an amazing achievement an honour to represent my country so many times but it is more important that we try and get that victory tomorrow and hopefully we can and that would make it even more special.”
Bale’s goal was his 41st at international level and Wales’ first at the World Cup for 64 years as they picked up their first point at the finals since their last appearance in 1958.
With England top of the group thanks to a 6-2 thrashing of Iran on Monday and favoured to beat the U.S., second place is up for grabs.
The heat and the pressure will be soaring at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Friday with the game kicking off near high noon under a blazing midday sun that will test the fitness of both sides.
All eyes will be on the 33-year-old Bale, who helped Los Angeles FC win the MLS Cup this season but has yet to complete a full match for the Major League Soccer side and came to the World Cup having played 28 minutes of competitive football since September.
He has been working hard on his recovery since the US game.
“He’s fit and raring to go, let me tell you,” said Wales manager Rob Page. “He is the ultimate professional he hasn’t stopped since the final whistle.
“He knows what his body needs and he’ll be ready come the start of that game. He delivers for you. He’s done it time-and-time again for us when we need the win,” Page added. ― Reuters