Bale, Ramsey re-kindle spirit of 2016

Baku (AFP) – Five years after starring as Wales reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey re-discovered their best form in Wednesday’s mature 2-0 win over Turkey.

Juventus midfielder Ramsey, 30, claimed the opener from a Bale assist before the Real Madrid attacker set-up Connor Roberts’ late effort to take a giant leap towards the last 16 of Euro 2020.

The pair have played together at international level since Ramsey made his Wales debut in 2008, following in Bale, who is 18 months older, two years earlier.

Between them they created four chances against the Crescent Stars after creating six against Russia in the group stages five years ago.

“The connection has been there for many years. We’ve done it for a while now,” captain Bale said after the victory in Baku. 

“We always play for the shirt, we work hard as a team it was great for him to get the first goal, get us off to a good start.

“Hopefully we can play together well until the end of the tournament,” he added.

They have had similar fortunes at club level since the surprising run in France.

Bale was the subject of incessant transfer reports as his initially succesful time at Madrid became plagued by injuries. He rejoined former side Tottenham on loan last season.

Caerphilly-born Ramsey has had his own fitness issues since arriving in Turin from Arsenal in July 2019. He played just 110 minutes in the final two months of the last Serie A season.

– ‘Walk on broken glass’ –

He missed training ahead of last Saturday’s draw with Switzerland and has used his own staff to regain fitness.

“We’ve got a lot of players who are not playing domestic football week in week out. Is it the crest on the chest that makes them raise their game? It must be,” Wales national coach Rob Page said.

“Playing for Wales is powerful. Everybody would walk on broken glass to get into this squad,” he added.

On Wednesday, the pair made potentially costly mistakes before claiming starring roles.

Ramsey had two golden opportunities in the first half to open the scoring.  Bale emphatically missed a spot kick on the hour before setting up the late second goal and being named star of the match.

“He wears the armband for a reason,” Page said.

“Everyone in life and football gets knockbacks and setbacks and missing the penalty was a bitter blow for him but he reacted in a positive way.

“If he hadn’t taken the corner in the way he did we would not have had the second goal. Credit to him in showing character,” he added.

Despite his lack of gametime for Juve, Ramsey highlighted his ability as a box-to-box midfielder against Turkey.

“He put a shift in. He hasn’t played that many minutes at domestic level,” Page said.

“A phenomenal performance,” he added.

Page’s men, led by the pair who grew up less than 16km from each other in south Wales, now head to group leaders Italy on Sunday on the verge of reaching the knockout stages  again.

“We’re in a fantastic position now,” Bale said.

“If you’d have offered us four points after the first two games before the tournament started we definitely would have taken it. 

“But there’s still one more game to go,” he added.

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