Wales star Gareth Bale gets long-awaited shot on World Cup stage

Al Rayyan, Qatar – Gareth Bale’s earliest World Cup memory dates back to when he was 8 years old. It was 1998, the tournament was hosted by France, and he had a pencil case emblazoned with the logo.

But in terms of happy memories of actually watching the World Cup, Bell says it’s “always been a little disappointing.”

That’s because Wales, who haven’t been on soccer’s grandest stage in their lifetime, is appearing in their first World Cup since 1958 this year, where they will play the United States in their opening match on Monday (2 p.m. ET on Fox and the Fox Sports app) at Ahmet Bin Ali Stadium.

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“When your country isn’t in the World Cup as a kid, it takes a little bit of the fun out of it,” said the 33-year-old Welsh captain. “So for Wales to now be their country at the World Cup would be an incredible thing, not only for the youngsters, but for the country as a whole.

“Everyone has dreamed of this for so long. We had such close calls and so what was on the line for us to be a team was unbelievable.”

Is USA ready for Wales?

Is USA ready for Wales?

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Bell grew up going to all national team games with his friends, his father, and his friends’ fathers. They were at the first Welsh football game against Finland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff – known as the Principality Stadium since 2016 and also the home of the Wales national rugby union team.

“And we always joked, ‘You’ll be there one day!’ Bell said. “So [I was] Always dreamed that this could happen.”

More importantly for Bell, Wales being at this World Cup is important for the future of the national team. The mindset is similar to that of the US men’s national team in that he hopes it will continue to grow the game in Wales and inspire the next generation to play football.

“By doing this, we hope that we will have a strong national team in the future,” he said. “And, say, in 20 years’ time, if they say Wales qualified for the World Cup in 2022, having inspired all of us to play football and love it, then yes, that would be an incredible story.”

Bell is widely regarded as one of the greatest wingers of his generation, as well as one of the greatest Welsh players of all time. He has been in the national team since the age of 17, has played in the Premier League, La Liga and scored goals in several Champions League finals and European Championships.

Most recently, he scored one of the most exciting goals in MLS history when he came on as a substitute for LAFC in overtime of the MLS Cup final against the Philadelphia Union and tied the game with a header in the 128th minute. LAFC won in the penalty shootout.

On Monday, he will face an LAFC teammate in US midfielder Kellyanne Acosta, whom he says he hasn’t spoken to since living in Qatar. Bell signed a 12-month contract with LAFC back in June and so he is familiar with several USMNT players who play in MLS, such as defenders Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin and Aaron Long, who will go directly against Monday. is likely to.

Gareth Bale Rank No. 42

Gareth Bale Rank No. 42

Gareth Bale of Wales is known for his technical ability, pace and finishing. He earns the 42nd spot in Stu Holden’s Top 50 Players for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

Bell said of the American side, “They’re a good, young team and they’ve got some great players.” “It’s going to be a tough match, and I’m sure they know the same thing. I’m sure they know we have weaknesses and vice versa.”

Too often athletes are pushy and don’t show emotion in pregame press conferences. Bell would have every reason to put on a poker face, especially considering he hasn’t started the game since September. But on the eve of his first World Cup match, Bale didn’t hide anything. Sitting on a stage in front of a large room full of reporters, photographers and TV cameras, he laughed and answered every question.

“It’s different,” Bell said in response to a question about comparing this moment to other big moments in his career. “It’s probably the biggest honor we can play for our country, to qualify for the World Cup. It’s something we haven’t done, everyone knows for 64 years. And it’s something that There is history in our country.”

“Schools are going to be closed to watch our sports. Kids are going to miss school – luckily for them. This is one of those moments that is a great piece of history in our country, something that we all long for.” want since time.”

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But Littman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for Fox Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman”, published in the spring of 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow him on Twitter @lecon littman,

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