herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Bale: 'Wales calm ahead of BH clash'

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale says Wales will stay calm and embrace the pressure despite the nation being on the cusp of football history.

Wales head to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday needing a point to qualify for next summer's European Championship and what would be their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

Even if Group B leaders Wales lose in Zenica, and Israel take the race for qualification to the wire by beating Cyprus on Saturday, Chris Coleman's side will be expected to finish the job against Andorra's part-timers in Cardiff next Tuesday.

"We're close to achieving something that no other team has ever before and we're all excited by that," Bale said. "This is the best kind of pressure to have and we want to embrace that.

"We know what we have at stake, but we're keeping calm and we know what we have to do.

"We're only focussed on Bosnia, not Andorra, and we want to get the job done as soon as possible."

Bale was speaking at the Football Association of Wales awards in Cardiff where he was named Welsh player of the year for a record fifth time.

The Real Madrid forward claimed his own hat-trick of awards on the night, recognition for the past year where he has been the inspiration behind Wales' unbeaten Euro 2016 campaign and climb into the top eight of the FIFA world rankings.

Bale has been involved in eight of Wales' nine goals in the competition - scoring six of them with two assists - but he said success was down to the unity within the squad and the work of manager Coleman.

"We've been together for a long time and we're such a close-knit group," Bale said.

"We've always had the belief to do it, it's just putting those performances together in a string of games.

"We've managed to do that and there is not far to go.

"The manager has been amazing since he's come in, he's imposed his own style and we've got that mentality to always work and never say die."

Bale returned in last weekend's Madrid derby after being out for nearly three weeks with a calf injury.

The 26-year-old came on for the final 24 minutes of Real's 1-1 draw at Atletico and reported no ill-effects from his lay-off.

"The calf is okay," Bale said. "It was a nice 20 minutes to open it up and get the legs going ready for the next two games.

"I've prepared well for the last couple of weeks doing my rehab. I'm ready to go."

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