London (AFP) – Gareth Bale has set his sights on leading Wales to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years after declaring himself fit for the play-off semi-final against Austria.
Bale missed Real Madrid’s defeat against Barcelona on Sunday with a minor niggle, but the Wales captain is ready to face Austria in Cardiff on Thursday.
Wales captain Bale has won four Champions League titles during his time at Real and led his country to the knockout stages at each of the last two European Championships
But the 32-year-old forward has never sampled the unique atmosphere of a World Cup, while his country haven’t qualified for the tournament since 1958.
“For sure it will be one of biggest games I’ve played in,” Bale told reporters on Wednesday.
“Qualifying for a World Cup is something I want to achieve for the fans, the country. It’s definitely a massive game, we all want to do well.
“I remember (growing up) loving watching the tournament. Brazilian Ronaldo, Samba football, they were probably my first memories.
“It’s a dream come true for everyone to play in a World Cup. To do it for Wales would be an incredible achievement. It’s been a long time.”
Wales or Austria will play the winners of the other Path A semi-final between Scotland and Ukraine to decide a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
The other semi-final been delayed until June because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Asked if it would be a huge blow never to play in a World Cup, former Tottenham star Bale said: “I wouldn’t say it’d be a regret if I didn’t play in a World Cup, but it’s something I would love to achieve, for myself, my country, the fans of Wales.
“It will only be a regret if we don’t give 100 per cent; don’t leave anything in the tank.
“Once you’ve done that there won’t be regrets regardless of the result. Hopefully our best will be enough.”
Wales are unbeaten in 11 competitive fixtures at the Cardiff City Stadium, a run stretching back to 2018, and Bale is confident they can use the sell-out home crowd to their advantage again.
“It’s a big advantage being in front of our own fans. They know how important they are, they really are the 12th man and will push us through to the finish line for sure,” he said.
“The fans inspire us and push us on. It’s difficult to say why our record’s so good, but hopefully we can continue that.”
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- ‘Things change’ – Ceferin warns Europe’s old elite before Champions League final
- UEFA chief Ceferin calls on La Liga to stop criticism of PSG
- Liverpool’s Thiago, Fabinho fit for Champions League final
- Champions League Final on TV: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid details
- Ibrahimovic intends to continue playing, says Maldini
- Zinchenko wants to make Ukraine ‘proud’ in World Cup play-off
- Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko to leave West Ham
- Mane promises ‘special’ answer over future at Liverpool
- Melbourne City aim to emulate Man City with back-to-back titles
- Euro glory would make Liverpool the best ever: McManaman