Gareth Bale claims Wales are unfazed by the prospect of facing Croatia on Sunday as they prepare for a critical European Championship qualifier in Cardiff.
Ryan Giggs’ side currently sit on seven points in Group E after five matches, though they a game in hand on all four teams above them in the pool. A win would come as a massive shot in the arm to their bid to make next summer’s competition.
Kieffer Moore’s first international goal was not enough for the Welsh to beat Slovakia as they were held to a 1-1 draw on Thursday, though Bale believes he was ‘lucky’ to avoid a second booking during the clash.
“It’s nice to have the experience to know how to do it, though it is obviously easier said than done. We believe in ourselves – we feel no matter who we come up against, we can come up with a plan to beat them.
“We have great players and a great team, and if we put in a performance we can beat anybody,” the 30-year-old explained. “Croatia are the favourites, they are one of the best teams in the world.
“But, being underdogs doesn’t change anything. We will always try and set up to win the game and that is always our plan. We all know if we win all three remaining games we should qualify and that’s our mindset, that’s our ultimate aim.”
A rash challenge from the Madrid forward in Bratislava could have seen him sent off late on, but the referee chose not to award a second yellow. Bale looked to have injured himself during the collision, though he has admitted that was the least of his concerns.
On the matter of that fortunate escape, he said: “I was more worried about getting sent off to be honest, I was lucky to get away with that one, though I didn’t think the first one was a yellow card, so it evened itself out.
“[On Sunday] I can’t make too many silly tackles, I have to be mindful of that. I don’t want to miss any games, especially at crunch time in the group.
“I have to be clever with what I am doing and maybe expect someone will try and rile me up to get me suspended. But, I am experienced enough to get through without a booking.”
Bale will be lining up against Real teammate Luka Modric at Cardiff City Stadium, with the winger saying of the midfielder (as quoted by Wales Online): “We haven’t actually spoken yet. Maybe there’ll be a message later on.
“Having played together for a long time at Tottenham and Real Madrid, we know each other well and it would be nice to get one over him finally, as they have beaten us a few times in the past.”
However, he could still make the game versus Croatia, with Giggs stating: “We’ve not ruled Aaron out. He’s on a different schedule [to the rest of the squad].
“He stayed back with the physio this week. We’re just giving him all the time we can. We’ve still got over 24 hours, so we’ll see how he is [on Sunday] morning.
“Aaron’s not played in [this qualifying campaign] yet. You want your best players available, but when I took over I wanted that strength in depth to handle these situations and we’ve also got players who have come in and done a job.”