‘Right where I want to be’ for USMNT opener
DOHA, Qatar — Wales captain Gareth Bale said he’s “right where I want to be” ahead of the their match against the United States, their first at a World Cup in 64 years.
Bale, 33, has won some of the biggest trophies the sport has to offer, including three La Liga titles and five UEFA Champions League crowns, all with Real Madrid. But with the start of the World Cup upon him, there’s genuine excitement about what lies ahead.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
“Yeah, I’m right where I want to be, I’m here, before the first game and ready to go,” he said at Sunday’s press conference. “We’ve all been training hard here the last week and adapting to the heat, the time zones and, we have no excuses now. We put all the hard work in and, [come] game time tomorrow that’s where we hopefully can step up and deliver what’s needed to be delivered.”
Bale said the sight of seeing the Wales flag in a World Cup stadium is one that he hopes will have a long-lasting impact.
– 2022 World Cup: Schedule, previews and how to watch
– 2022 World Cup: Previews for all 32 teams
“For Wales and the youngsters growing up now, to have Wales in the World Cup is, I’m sure maybe they don’t realize it now, but it’ll be an incredible experience for them to have,” he said. “And one I wish I had, but I think hopefully we can do them all proud and I’m sure they’ll enjoy the World Cup having Wales in there a lot more than not.”
Earlier this week, Los Angeles FC (LAFC) teammate and U.S. international Kellyn Acosta said of Bale: “We’ve got to literally start kicking him around the field a little bit. Make him feel us. Limit his time and space.”
Bale took the comment in good humor, and joked, “I tried to avoid him kicking me the last two weeks before we came.”
He added: “It’s nothing new. I’m used to getting kicked on the field. Nothing’s changed as far the referees there, and I’m sure it’ll be a fair, but difficult game tomorrow, one both teams are looking forward to, and I’m sure it’ll be played in a great spirit and both teams will want win and hopefully it is a great spectacle on show.”
Bale capped off his season with LAFC by scoring a stunning equaliser in stoppage time in the MLS Cup final to force a penalty shootout, one that saw his side prevail over the Philadelphia Union. His spell with LAFC has given him an up-close look at some of the U.S. players that will be taking the field on Monday.
“I have now some experience of playing against and with some of the U.S. team. They’re a good young squad, who have some fantastic players,” he said. ” They’re good team. There are no illusions …They’re here to win the game just as we are. We know it’s going to be a difficult match tomorrow and I’m sure they know the same thing too.”
In other team news, Wales manager Rob Page said that midfielder Joe Allen hasn’t recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury, and is “probably not going to make it, if I’m being completely honest.”
Allen has been sidelined since September with the ailment and since the team arrived in Qatar, he has been engaging in an individualised program to regain fitness.
“We could have pushed him maybe, but then if he breaks down, he’s definitely out of the tournament, let alone second game,” Page said. “So it’s risk and reward. We would’ve liked him available for the first game, but we’re not going to push him to the point of completely losing [him].”