Wales reaching last 16 will be difficult - Bale

Published on: 25 November 2022

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Wales captain Gareth Bale has said qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup "will be difficult" after Friday's 2-0 defeat by Iran.

Robert Page's side have one point from two games and must beat England to stand any chance of progressing.

Stoppage-time goals by Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian sealed the defeat for Wales, who also had goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey sent off.

"It's gutting - there's no other way to say it," Bale said.

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Manager Page was scathing in his assessment of Wales' performance, which he described as "nowhere near the levels we've set".

He added: "When there are so many off days, there is only one outcome. It's a difficult changing room at the minute, but we will be ready [against England]."

Bale struggled to make any impact against a rejuvenated Iran, who bounced back from their opening 6-2 defeat by England with a vibrant performance.

So often Wales' talisman, Bale had the fewest touches (36) of any outfield player who was on for the whole game, and managed only one shot on goal.

He also received the lowest score in BBC Sport's player rater for his performance (2.56), with team-mate Aaron Ramsey only slightly above him on 2.63.

"We fought till the end but it's difficult when you go down to 10 men in the World Cup against good teams," Bale added.

"We have to keep going and we have to pick ourselves up straight away. It will be difficult now, but we have to try to beat England - it's as simple as that."

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'Wales can't keep relying on Bale'

Bale's negligible influence was picked apart by BBC pundits, with former Wales defender James Collins saying the captain will be aware his performance "was not what we'd expect".

The former Real Madrid and Tottenham forward moved to Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC in the summer, but has only started two games in the United States.

He was also quiet in Wales' opener against the USA, but scored a late penalty to rescue a draw.

And concerns are building about Wales' possible over-dependence on the 33-year-old.

"We can't keep relying on Bale to dig us out of trouble by doing something magic or scoring a worldie goal," said Collins on BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He knows he has not performed to the levels we're used to and we expect more."

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin went further, saying: "If his name was not Gareth Bale, he would have been taken off in the game and he would not play in the next.

"He had no impact and did not try to go past anybody. We know Bale from the past and that did not look like the same guy."

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