Wales captain Gareth Bale has declared himself ‘100% fit’ for the World Cup after a minor injury limited him to just a substitute appearance in the recent MLS Cup final win for LAFC.
Bale came off the bench in that triumph over Philadelphia Union and scored an equaliser in the eighth minute of stoppage time in extra time to force a penalty shootout that LAFC then won 3-0. It also continued Bale’s incredible run of scoring vital goals in finals or big games.
But the Welshman, who turned 33 during the summer, had missed early playoff games against LA Galaxy and Austin FC. He had also hardly started any games during the MLS regular season and was injured for much of his final year with Real Madrid.
“I’m 100% fit and ready to go,” he declared ahead of the Wales squad travelling to Qatar.
Bale added it would be ‘no problem’ to play 90 minutes three times in nine days during the group stage as Wales prepare to face the United States, Iran and England, despite lacking regular matches.
“It’s been difficult, mentally more than anything. I guess for everybody, the last three or four weeks, it’s been difficult, even hearing stories of players going down and knowing they’re going to miss the World Cup,” Bale explained.
“Speaking to a few of the boys, even for them having to play this weekend was tough mentally, and we’re just praying not to have an injury at all because it’s such a big occasion.”
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Bale has been a central part of Wales’ recent successes. The run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals came in the country’s first major international tournament since 1958, while they also reached the knockout rounds at Euro 2020, were promoted to League A in the UEFA Nations League and have consistently maintained a strong FIFA world ranking since peaking at eighth in 2015.
This year marks a first World Cup appearance for Wales in 64 years, since reaching the quarter-finals in Sweden in 1958 where they eventually lost out to Pele’s Brazil.