Bale – Expectations high for Wales
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Wales captain Gareth Bale says expectations should be high heading into Euro 2020 following the country’s run to the semi-finals five years ago.
Bale was one of the star performers as Wales defied expectations to reach the last four of Euro 2016, a run that saw them beat the likes of Belgium before being denied a place in the final by eventual champions Portugal.
The Real Madrid forward, who spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan at Tottenham, is one of eight survivors from that campaign still in the current squad and he believes their performances in France five years ago mean expectations should be high for another strong showing this summer.
“It’s similar (to Euro 2016) coming into the tournament,” Bale told reporters. “On the back of 2016 there should be expectations, but it’s a different team and a different tournament.”
Wales will begin their Euro 2020 campaign when they take on Switzerland in their Group A opener at Baku’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday before they take on Turkey at the same venue four days later.
The Dragons will then round off their group campaign with a trip to Rome to take on Italy on June 20 and Bale knows there will be no easy games in their pursuit of a place in the knockout stages.
“We know it’s a difficult group to get out of,” the 31-year-old added. “They are all difficult teams to play against, but we’ve got to take one game at a time.
“We are very excited to be here and one day away. I feel fine and ready to give 100 per cent for my country, as I always do.”
Bale’s own form has been called into question in the build up to the finals following an indifferent loan spell with Spurs, while speculation regarding his long-term future at Real Madrid also remains.
The former Southampton player is also without a goal for Wales since netting in their European Championship qualifying draw with Croatia in October 2019, although he has no concerns regarding his own form after providing four assists across his last seven appearances for his country.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bale responded when asked about his form. “I’ve made assists. I’m still contributing. I’m not worried. “If the chances arise to score, hopefully I can take it.”
Bale is Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer having struck 33 times in his 92 appearances since making his international debut in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago in 2006, with three of his strikes coming at Euro 2016.
If Wales are to make it out of Group A, then it is likely they will need Bale performing at his very best, as they look to replicate the success they enjoyed on their last major tournament appearance in 2016.