Gareth Bale insists Wales always believed they could go all the way

Real Madrid star says it is not about himself and Cristiano Ronaldo but about both sides

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Gareth Bale insists that this Welsh squad always believed they could be involved in the final shake-up for the Euro2016 title, and could even emulate the success of other outsiders by winning Sunday's final at the Stade the France.

"Ultimately we want to win the tournament," says the Real Madrid star.

“We always said the first goal was to get out of the group and then we’d take it step by step. But we always believed we could go all the way – you see the likes of Greece and Denmark and teams like that who have done it before. We always believed, but doing it is another thing.”

The 26-year-old might always have believed but the evidence is that there might just have been doubts elsewhere.


Joe Ledley, for instance, has been weighing up over the last few days whether to cancel his wedding which is scheduled to take place in Ibiza on Saturday.

Somewhat less seriously, Neil Taylor let it slip that he had bought tickets to Beyonce’s concert in Cardiff last weekend in, it was pretty clear, the firm belief that he would be safely back in time to head along with his wife.

The team's surprise success is taking its toll on the players' wider families too, with Chris Gunter's parents having apparently decided to stay in France for tomorrow's semi-final against Portugal rather than travel to Mexico for the marriage of their other son Marc.

“Mum’s a bit upset at having to choose,” Gunter revealed, before observing that “I’m not sure what Marc will do if we reach the final”.

New experience

Bale, though, seems entirely focussed, and says the team has improved as it has progressed through the opening weeks of what is, for all of the Welsh, a very new experience.

“I just think we’ve grown throughout the tournament. The England game we learned from our mistakes of not passing the ball.

“When we’ve had to win ugly, we’ve won ugly, and when we’ve had to play football we’ve played football. But at the crucial times we’ve come up with the goods.”

Biggest stars

Now they face into a test that is being almost universally billed as a battle between the teams’ two biggest stars, something the Welshman is anxious to play down.

"It's irrelevant, to be honest. Everyone says it's me and Ronaldo, but it's Wales against Portugal.

“We could both not have a kick all game and a team will win so it’s really not about us – it’s about the team.

“I’m sure the press will hype it up but I know full well it’s about us as a team.

“The team is the star – we work together, we work as a unit, and ultimately that’s how we’ve been getting results and how we’ll continue to do so.”

Asked if there had been much by way of banter with his club-mate, the Portugal captain, before the tournament, he says no, but adds: “I remember Toni Kroos saying we’d only have three games so it would be nice to meet him in the final.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times