Euro 2016: Wales at 'another level' for Belgium, says Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale

Wales v Belgium
Date: Friday, 1 July Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live BBC One, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, S4C and text commentary online & BBC Sport app

Gareth Bale says Wales have lifted their game to “another level” before their European Championship quarter-final against Belgium.

Bale, 26, scored the winner as Wales beat Belgium 1-0[1] in a Euro 2016 qualifier on their way to reaching a first major tournament for 58 years.

Before Friday’s rematch in Lille, the Real Madrid forward believes Wales have improved since their last meeting.

“From that night, we have gone up to another level,” said Bale.

“We’ve taken our game on with playing more games in our system, gelling even more. It was a changing moment for us.

“It was my most important Welsh goal, especially at the time of qualifying.

“It was an important goal for me personally on my 50th cap and for the team. It also gave us that belief that we can take on and beat the big teams.”

‘Bogey team’

Bale feels Wales could have a psychological advantage over Belgium after beating them in qualifying.

“We’re like their bogey team, aren’t we?” he said. “Hopefully that edge gets into their heads, you never know.

“We will definitely draw on those qualifiers, it gives us more knowledge on them.

“But we understand what they are about, how they work, and we will hone our game plan to try and stop them but help our attack.”

Gareth Bale<!–

‘Wales’ time to shine’

Wales’ second-round win over Northern Ireland and England’s defeat against Iceland means Chris Coleman’s side are the only home nation left in the last eight in France.

Wales’ only previous appearance at the quarter-final stage saw them beaten by Brazil in the 1958 World Cup.

With a first semi-final at a major tournament just one win away, Bale says he and his team-mates grasp the significance of Friday’s match against Belgium.

“We know about the quarter-final in 1958 but since then it’s definitely the biggest game in Welsh football,” he added.

“This is our time to shine. We’re the only home nation left in the competition, which is an amazing achievement in itself.

Gareth Bale hand on heart<!–

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“We’re very happy, very proud and we’ll be flying the flag for Wales.”

Belgium are currently second in the Fifa world rankings, as they were when they lost to Wales in Cardiff in 2015.

Coleman’s men have since slipped to 26th but are riding the crest of a wave at Euro 2016, only their second appearance at a major tournament.

Bale has been central to their success. Having scored seven of Wales’ 11 goals in qualifying, the former Tottenham forward has contributed three goals and an assist in France.

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots highlighted Bale and Aaron Ramsey as Wales’ “two top players”, though Bale has warned there is more to his team.

“We’ve got fantastic players in our team all the way through, even on the bench to come on,” he said.

“Whatever they want to concentrate on that’s fine but we know we have more than two good players. We’ve a very good team and we’re not in last eight for no reason.”

BBC Sport – Football

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