Gareth Bale has had to manage his fitness in the lead up to the World Cup, but is ready and raring to go as he prepares to captain Wales.
Wales captain Gareth Bale is right where he wants to be ahead of leading his country into their second ever World Cup campaign.
Rob Page’s side face the United States on Monday in Wales’ first World Cup game since losing to Brazil in the quarter-finals in 1958.
Brazilian great Pele scored his first goal for the Selecao in that match, becoming the competition’s youngest goalscorer (17 years and 239 days) – a record that runs until 2022.
Bale comes into the World Cup after coming off the bench to score Los Angeles FC’s extra-time goal in the MLS Cup, which ended 3-3 against the Philadelphia Union, with LAFC winning on penalties.
After that match in October, the former Real Madrid forward revealed he is still not 100% fit, although Bale put any concerns about his condition to bed at a press conference in Doha on Sunday.
“I’m where I want to be, I’m here,” he said. “It’s the night before the first game and I’m ready to go.
“We’ve all been training hard this past week, adjusting to the heat, the time zones and now we have no excuses – we’ve put in all the hard work and now it’s game time.
“Hopefully we can step up and deliver what’s needed.”
Bale is Wales’ record goalscorer at major international tournaments, having played a large role in his team’s progress to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and the last 16 at Euro 2020 when he captained the team.
“It’s an incredible feeling, the kind you dream about as a kid, but to actually be in a team that’s achieved it, it’s an honor to do it for our country,” Bale said of playing at the World Cup.
“It will be a fun time for us that we want to enjoy and have fun as always as a national team.
“We’re in our own little bubble, but we get links and videos from our WhatsApp group about what’s going on at home.
“We see the tension building. They have their bucket hats on and their shirts are out. We feel the love and we’re going to try to make them proud. We’re doing it for our country.”
“In every World Cup [I’ve seen] there’s never been a Wales flag. For the youngsters now, Wales will have an incredible experience at the World Cup.”
Bale’s sentiment was echoed by manager Page, who said: “I’ve spent the last week with them. They’re ready, absolutely ready, I won’t have to fire them up.”
“We have a game plan, we did a lot of analysis. They waited a long time for this. It was difficult to get here, with the emotions we had to handle in the Ukraine [play-off] game.
“I thought the lads showed real class that day, showed they can handle emotions – it won’t be any different.
Page also confirmed that influential midfielder Joe Allen, the biggest fitness doubt ahead of the tournament, will play no part against the USA after not fully recovering from a hamstring injury.