Real Madrid star fires all-important solitary goal to beat World No 2 Belgium
Cardiff: Qualifying for the 2016 European Championships is top of Gareth Bale’s agenda next season.
Bale marked his 50th international appearance on Friday night with the goal which floored Belgium 1-0 and took Wales to within touching distance of their first major tournament in over half a century.
Wales’ Gareth Bale celebrates his goal against Belgium. Pic/AFP
The 25-year-old will have another hectic campaign at club level, with new Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez apparently keen to build his side around the Wales forward.
But Bale is very much focused on completing Wales’ march to their first major finals since the 1958 World Cup, his 17th international goal having moved Chris Coleman’s side three points clear at the top of Group B with four games remaining.
“I think everybody knows how much I want to get to a major tournament with Wales,” Bale said. “It’s top of my list now. It’s on, so we’ll keep working hard to do it.
‘Still a long way’
“We know what position we’re in and we’re going to enjoy this. We know there’s still a long way to go. We can enjoy now, but when the next camp comes around we will be straight back on the floor.
“We will be working hard on the training field and ready to do the business.”
Bale settled the contest at the Cardiff City Stadium when he pounced on Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan’s ill-conceived header towards his own goal after 25 minutes.
He chested the ball down and beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, just as he had done in the 2014 Champions League final for Real, by slipping the ball through his legs with his weaker right foot.
After that Wales had to dig in against opponents ranked second in the world by FIFA, and survived a siege at times with the players willed on by a passionate sell-out crowd.
“I think that was definitely the most important goal I’ve scored,” Bale said. “It was our biggest international game and we rose to the occasion and got the win we needed. We prepared well, we worked hard together we played good football.”