Gareth Bale And Wales' Golden Generation Get The World Cup They Deserve

A truly world class talent, Gareth Bale finally gets to show the world what he is capable of
19:24, 05 Jun 2022

Queen Elizabeth II had been on the throne for five years when Wales last played at a World Cup finals in 1958. They are now set to return to football’s most celebrated competition in her 70th year on the throne, after beating Ukraine 1-0 at the Cardiff City stadium. As monarchs go, Gareth Bale has been the undisputed king of Welsh football for over a decade now. Finally, at the age of 32, his considerable talents will grace a World Cup.

The golf-loving winger-cum-forward is, in essence, a man without a club home at the moment. His Real Madrid contract expires this month, and his next move is unclear. But the former Tottenham Hotspur man will always have a home in Wales. The outpouring of love as he was substituted in the 83rd minute demonstrated that. This is a player who helped them to the semi finals of Euro 2016, their first tournament since that 1958 World Cup. Now, by virtue of striking the free kick that Andriy Yarmolenko headed past Heorhiy Bushchan, he has taken them to the 2022 World Cup.

Of course, Bale is not the only talent who has contributed to this revival of Welsh football. Aaron Ramsey, who came so close to doubling Wales’ lead from a Dan James cross, has been an indispensable part of this side. Joe Allen has been as reliable a midfielder as you could ask for. Wayne Hennessey has amassed over 100 caps between the sticks. What these men have in common is their status as veterans of the game. But the next generation has promise. Neco Williams was an energetic, penetrative attacking presence against Ukraine. Sheffield United defender Rhys Norrington-Davies is just 23, while Ethan Ampadu is already an experienced part of the squad at 21. 

But Bale’s influence has a tendency to transcend. Wales’ one genuine world class talent of this generation, he is perhaps the most popular Welsh footballer since John Charles. He’s the best since Ryan Giggs, but has engendered a warmth and connection with the fans that the Manchester United player’s detached demeanour and avoidance of friendlies made impossible. Real Madrid fans have questioned his commitment at times, and that infamous “Wales, Golf. Madrid” flag certainly didn’t help his cause. But there has never been any doubt that Wales has sat at the top of his list of priorities, and their supporters have rewarded their hero with genuine affection.

Perhaps the best British player of the last decade, and certainly the most decorated in terms of club medals, Bale’s glittering career would have perhaps felt a little empty without an appearance at a World Cup. Trophies define seasons, but the World Cup defines generations. Without wishing to rain on a parade that is sure to still be in progress on the streets of Cardiff, Wales are not going to win the World Cup. But the fact the team, and Bale in particular, will be present is historic. At the last two European Championships, Wales have proven themselves as a team. Now they can show the world what they are capable of.

The world knows what Gareth Bale is capable of. Behind the locked doors of boardrooms around Britain, a few club chairman are probably discussing exactly what the soon-to-be free agent is capable of. Bale’s focus will be on finding a team with which to ply his trade so he is in peak condition in Qatar this winter. He has dazzled for Southampton, Tottenham and Real Madrid over the years, but Wales have seen him at his best. And the player will be determined to be at his best for them at the World Cup.

Wales deserve this. Gareth Bale deserves this. The fact it came against Ukraine, a team whose bravery and spirit in the face of horrendous circumstances should be applauded, does not dampen the achievement. This winter, perhaps for the last time at an international competition, we must appreciate what a truly brilliant player Bale has been and still is.

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