EURO 2016

Gareth Bale says tonight's game is not about him and Ronaldo

EURO 2016By Sunday World
“It’s Portugal versus Wales, nothing more,” said Bale
“It’s Portugal versus Wales, nothing more,” said Bale

Gareth Bale insists the Euro 2016 semi-final between Wales and Portugal is not about him and Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wales stormed into the last four of a major championship for the first time with a magnificent 3-1 victory over Belgium on Friday night.

They will now meet Ronaldo’s Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday with a place in the final of Euro 2016 at stake.

Much of the focus will be on Bale and Ronaldo – two of the most expensive players in football history – but the Welshman says he does not care about their private battle and says he is only interested in creating more history for his country.

“It’s Portugal versus Wales, nothing more,” said Bale when asked about coming up against Ronaldo at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.

“It’s in our hands now, but we can’t afford to look past the semi-final.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and we’ll stick to that.”

Wales’ only previous taste of a major tournament, the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, saw them reach the quarter-final stage before losing 1-0 to Brazil and a teenager called Pele.

But Chris Coleman’s current side eclipsed that achievement by overturning Radja Nainggolan’s thunderous early strike in Lille with goals from skipper Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes.

“We’re very proud at what the ‘58 team did,” said Bale. “They had some amazing players.

“But we’ve always spoken that this is our time to shine, and we’ve definitely done that.

“It’s going to be an amazing day, we’ve already made history and hopefully we can make more.

“We’re just enjoying being here, we’re enjoying the ride. It’s our time and we look forward to the semi-final.”

Belgium are ranked second in the world, but Bale’s pre-match suggestion that Wales are their bogey team now looks even more accurate.

Wales are unbeaten in four games against the Red Devils over the last two-and-a-half years, having drawn twice in Brussels and beaten them in Euro qualifying just over a year ago.

But, whereas that Bale-inspired 1-0 win in Cardiff was often a backs-to-the-wall exercise, this was a convincing victory which was fully deserved and underlined the improvement made under manager Coleman.

“It’s just incredible. We knew we had it in us, we obviously had a game plan,” said Bale.

“We felt we knew Belgium well from previous games and we executed the plan amazingly.

“We covered every blade of glass and definitely deserved the win.

“We’ve grown in confidence, we’ve been learning from maybe mistakes we’ve made before.

“We kept the ball very well and we felt very comfortable.

“We know they’re a very good side with a lot of talented individuals, but we showed what a true team we are.”

Wales must take on Portugal without suspended pair Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsey.

Both players picked up their second cautions of the tournament against Belgium and midfielder Ramsey, in particular, will be a huge loss to Wales.

Ramsey has been responsible for more goals – scoring one and with four assists – than any other player at Euro 2016.

Wales manager Coleman was full of sympathy for Ramsey and Davies, with his celebrations for the win tinged with disappointment for the duo.

“I am absolutely gutted for Aaron because he’s been outstanding in this tournament. One of the best players in the tournament, so he’s obviously gutted,” said Coleman.

“We said before the game that one or two of the boys were on yellows but we’ve got to do what we need to do to get through. If they have to take one for the team then so be it and Aaron has done that, so has Ben.

“It is really so disappointing for both players because they deserve as much as anybody to be in the semi-final.

“They’ve been outstanding – but they did what they needed to do, what the team needed from them.

“It is a bit tough, I think, at this level when there’s so much on the games, so much pressure on the players – two yellow cards in five games is a little bit tight, a bit tough.

“Unfortunately, Rambo and Ben are big losses for us but they’ve done everything required of them.”

James Collins is likely to come in to the defence in Davies’ absence, with Andy King the favourite to replace Ramsey.