Gareth Bale: Captain to lead Wales for September World Cup qualifiers

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer with 33 from 96 appearances
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Helsinki Date: Wednesday, 1 September Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales MW & DAB, Radio Cymru DAB and online, plus live text and score updates on the BBC Sport website and app

Captain Gareth Bale remains committed to Wales as he aims to lead them to their first World Cup since 1958, says manager Robert Page.

The 32-year-old walked away when he was asked about his Wales future following the round of 16 defeat by Denmark.

But Bale has been named in Wales’ squad for their World Cup qualifiers in September and intends to keep playing.

“As a player, manager, you want to be part of a World Cup. The boys will go down in history if they qualify,” said Page.

“Of course he [Bale] is going to want to be a part of that.

“He’s no different, but to do that you just can’t turn up and play for Wales. You’ve got to give it your best and play for your club.

“There’s no argument there, he’s ticking all the boxes.”

Real Madrid forward Bale is joined in the Wales squad by Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

The star duo helped Wales reach the last 16 of this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 but have not played a qualifier together since 2019.

There are no uncapped players as Page sticks with the bulk of his Euros squad. The only players missing from that group are Swansea City defenders Connor Roberts and Ben Cabango, ruled out with a groin injury and Covid-19 respectively.

In their first match since losing to Denmark in the second round of Euro 2020, Wales face Finland in a friendly in Helsinki on Wednesday, 1 September.

They will then resume their World Cup qualifying campaign against Belarus in Kazan, Russia, the following Sunday before hosting Estonia at Cardiff City Stadium on Wednesday, 8 September.

Wales lost their opening game of the campaign away against Group E top seeds Belgium, but responded with a 1-0 home win over the Czech Republic.

Realistically, Page’s side will need to beat both Belarus and Estonia to keep alive their hopes of qualifying automatically for a first World Cup since 1958 by winning their group.

Those ambitions will be boosted by the way Bale and Ramsey have started their seasons at Real Madrid and Juventus respectively.

Having spent the last campaign on loan at Tottenham Hotspur, Bale has started both of Real’s La Liga fixtures to date and scored in Sunday’s 3-3 draw at Levante.

“Gareth’s not changed who he is,” said Page. “Players will tell you different managers have different thoughts in how they want to play and whether they take to you as a person or as a player.

“He’s got a manager now [Carlo Ancelotti] who’s been impressed in what he’s done in pre-season and watched him through the Euros. That’s all he can influence.

“Thankfully he’s had a positive impact on the manager and started the season in good form and scoring goals, which is great for us.”

Wales' Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey celebrate
Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have a combined 163 caps and 50 goals for Wales

Ramsey started Juventus’ opening Serie A match of the season, Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Udinese, and will hope that is a sign of things to come after an injury-interrupted first two seasons in Italy.

“They [Bale and Ramsey] are in good form coming into this camp, which is really pleasing for me and the Welsh supporters,” Page added.

“We want our players playing competitive football week in and week out, no different for those two.”

The absence of uncapped players in Wales’ squad means there is no first call-up for Huddersfield Town winger Sorba Thomas.

Newham-born Thomas has impressed in the Championship after making the step up from non-league Boreham Wood in January.

The 22-year-old left-sided player, who qualifies for Wales via his mother from Newport, has started all four of Huddersfield’s league games this season, providing two assists.

“If anyone is eligible for Wales and is playing good level football and is showing potential, then of course we’re going to be interested,” said Page.

“He’s on the radar and I’ve been in contact.”

Wales squad

Goalkeepers: Hennessey, Ward, A Davies.

Defenders: B Davies, Gunter, Rodon, Ampadu, N Williams, Lockyer, Lawrence, Norrington-Davies.

Midfielders: Ramsey, Allen, J Williams, Wilson, Brooks, Morrell, Smith, Levitt, Thomas, Colwill.

Forwards: Bale, James, Moore, T Roberts, Johnson.

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