Gareth Bale rising to ranks of world's best, says Asmir Begovic

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I don’t feel the pressure, says Bale
Euro 2016 qualifying: Wales v Bosnia-Hercegovina
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Friday, 10 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru & online

Gareth Bale can be as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Bosnia-Hercegovina's Asmir Begovic.

Bale has not scored past Begovic in five attempts and the goalkeeper hopes to stop Wales' star scoring in Friday's 2016 Euro qualifier in Cardiff.

"Messi and probably Ronaldo are two of the best players in the world right now and I think that goes without saying," said the 27-year-old Stoke player.

"But people like Gareth Bale are working their way up."

Wales manager Chris Coleman believes Bale can overtake 73-cap legend Ian Rush's 28-goal tally to become the nation's top scorer.

Wales' all time top scorers:
Ian Rush (73 caps, 28 goals)Trevor Ford (38 caps, 23 goals)Ivor Allchurch (68 caps, 23 goals)Dean Saunders (75 caps, 22 goals)Craig Bellamy (78 caps, 19 goals)

Bale has scored 14 goals, 11 of them in his last 16 appearances with his brace sealing a 2-1 win in Andorra in Wales' Euro campaign opener.

The host are without 10 injured players, including influential midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen but confidence among Coleman's squad has been bolstered by ticket sales topping 27,000 ahead of kick-off.

Begovic, the 6ft 6in ex-Canada Under-21 international, faced Bale five times during encounters between Stoke and the Welshman's former club Tottenham Hotspur.

Bale, 25, joined Ronaldo at Real Madrid for a world record £85m in September, 2013.

Bosnia-Hercegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on Gareth Bale
"He has one heck of a left foot on him in any kind of free kick areas... and obviously the ball moves freakishly"

And Begovic believes Bale has improved since that move.

"I think he's grown a lot since he's gone to Real Madrid from his days at Spurs," said Begovic.

"He's become a world class player, almost, now.

"So he's a huge threat, but it's a great challenge and something that we relish."

And while Begovic can boast a clean sheet against Bale, he acknowledges stopping Wales' iconic player from making his mark from a free kick could be difficult.

"I've come across them. He used to take them at Spurs.

Asmir Begovic
After leaving war-torn Bosnia for Germany, Begovic moved to Canada as a 10-year-old

"He has one heck of a left foot on him in any kind of free kick areas... and obviously the ball moves freakishly and it's difficult to deal with, of course.

"Hopefully we won't give him too many situations where he can use that to his advantage.

"But I've faced it before and it's a big challenge."

However, Begovic says he and his team-mates would target defending against Bale at their peril.

He said: "Some of the players they have in the rest of the team are just as dangerous and... by paying too much attention to Gareth Bale it would open up a couple of other players."

Wales' opponents began their qualifying effort with a 2-1 home defeat by Cyprus, the team Coleman's side face on Monday in Cardiff.

Begovic underlined their desire ahead of Friday's encounter by saying: "It's a very important game for us.

"We don't want to fall too far behind any of the teams, especially Wales and it's a tough game for us."

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