Jibes heighten Bale's desire to prove sceptics wrong

Wales' Gareth Bale during training.
Wales' Gareth Bale during training. PHOTO: REUTERS

DINARD • Gareth Bale will have the taunts of team-mates past and present echoing in his memory when he takes to the field for Wales in today's Euro 2016 semi-final against Portugal.

He saw five major tournaments come and go over the first 10 years of his career, and the 26-year-old is ready to make up for lost time.

Chris Coleman's side have created a sensation by reaching the last four in France and it has given Bale reason to recall with a smile the jibes to which he was subjected.

"I have had a lot of abuse over the years," the Real Madrid forward told reporters at the Wales media centre in Dinard.

"Just like when we used to lose and when we were (ranked) 100th in the world, 'You have nine weeks' holiday instead of two.'

"It is good to finally be in a major tournament, actually doing great things with our national team. It is great to be a part of."

Should Bale reach the final, he could find himself facing Germany midfielder Toni Kroos, his Real team-mate, who took a pessimistic view of Wales' chances prior to the tournament.

"I remember Toni Kroos saying we'd only have three games. So it would be nice to meet him in the final," Bale said with a smile. "It was a good laugh and a joke, a bit of banter. But we've obviously exceeded a lot of people's expectations."

Bale had his eyes on the final from the start - unlike some of his team-mates, who have had to hastily rearrange holiday and even wedding plans as Wales have voyaged deeper into the tournament.

"I fully believed that we could do something. That is why I booked my holiday for the 11th (the day after the final). I am not like the others," he said.

"I fully believed that we could do something.

"You see the fairy tale (titles) of Greece and Denmark, and you think, 'Why can't we do it?' "

Former Wales midfielder Ryan Giggs, who has played with both Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, told CNN that on current form, he would want Bale in his team over the Portugal No. 7.

But Bale demurred.

"It's irrelevant, to be honest. Everyone says it's me and Ronaldo, but it's Wales v Portugal," he said.

"We could both not have a kick all game and a team will win, so it's really not about us.

"I'm sure the press will hype it up, but I know full well it's about us as a team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Jibes heighten Bale's desire to prove sceptics wrong'. Print Edition | Subscribe