Bale says team spirit will end Russia's challenge

GROUP B

Russia v Wales Singtel TV Ch 141 & StarHub Ch 221, tomorrow, 2.50am

TOULOUSE • Gareth Bale believes Wales' Euro 2016 fate lies in their own hands as they look to qualify for the last 16 in a potentially high-risk match against Russia in Toulouse today.

The forward has been inspirational in Wales' European Championship debut, hitting the net in a 2-1 win over Slovakia and again in the 2-1 defeat by England in Lens.

Wales are second in Group B, one point behind leaders England, but firmly in contention for a historic place in the last 16.

A win in Toulouse would give Wales direct qualification - although even defeat could see them go through as one of the four best third-placed group finishers.

Bale admitted defeat by England (in their previous match) through Daniel Sturridge's injury-time goal was hard to digest.

But the 26-year-old said Wales' "close group" of players are in high spirits and ready to keep their dream alive.

"Our fate is in our own hands," he said. "We're so excited for our last game. Everything's to play for, the nation's behind us and we will be looking forward to it. We'll try to embrace the occasion and qualify."

With only one point to their name, following Vasili Berezutski's last-gasp equaliser against England, Leonid Slutsky's embattled Russia would be forgiven for wishing their tournament was over following a crushing 2-1 defeat by Slovakia.

It has left them bottom of the table and needing to beat Wales to have any chance of adding some optimism to their campaign after a controversial week for the team and their supporters.

Russia have never lost to Wales in their four meetings, but Slutsky knows his team must avoid conceding free kicks within Bale's shooting range.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'Bale says team spirit will end Russia's challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe