Gareth Bale: Wales' Euro 2016 finals bid 'on' after Belgium win

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Euro 2016 top of my list - Bale

Gareth Bale says Wales have taken a massive step towards fulfilling his ambition of playing at a major finals with his country.

The Real Madrid forward, 25, marked his 50th cap with a 25th-minute winner in the Euro 2016 qualifier with Belgium.

Wales held on for a 1-0 victory that puts them three points clear in Group B with four games remaining.

"Everybody knows how much I want to get to a major tournament with Wales," Bale said after Friday's game in Cardiff.

"It's right at the top of my list now and it's on, so we'll keep working hard to do it.

Gareth Bale scored his 17th goal for Wales in the win over Belgium
Gareth Bale scored his 17th goal for Wales in the win over Belgium

"It was very special and very, very emotional.

"I had all my family and friends here with me celebrating the 50th cap, but the most important thing was to get the win and a good performance - celebrate in style.

"For most of us out there it was probably our biggest game in a Wales jersey and it showed again, like Israel [a 3-0 away win in March] we all stepped up to the occasion and did what we had to do.

"We have the best fans in the world and I don't think I've been in many atmospheres like that in my whole career."

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale posted on Twitter after the game to say how much the win meant to him

Wales manager Chris Coleman added that Bale deserved to be part of a first Wales team to reach a major finals since the 1958 World Cup.

Previous teams containing talents such as Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes and Ian Rush have come agonisingly close - notably in World Cup qualifying against Romania in 1993 and in a Euro 2004 play-off against Russia - but fallen just short.

"It would be a shame if he didn't get there," Coleman said.

"If you're Gareth and you're playing with Real Madrid and you've won the Champions League and played in huge games, you want to experience that with your country.

"He's a passionate boy and he's desperate to succeed with Wales. Someone with that talent, they've got to be at a finals."

Belgium came into the game ranked second in the world and favourites to win the group, but Bale capitalised on Radja Nainggolan's poor back-header to beat Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium goal.

"I saw Courtois coming out and I was going to head it, but I saw him go back right at the end and I managed to take it on my chest and slide it through his legs," said Bale, who added he "couldn't walk" by the time he was substituted late in the second half.

table

The goal was Bale's 17th for Wales, putting him into sixth place in his own right on Wales' all-time list of scorers.

With Euro 2016 expanded to 24 teams, the top two sides in each qualifying group are assured of their places, while there are additional spots for the best third-placed team and eight play-off winners.

Wales have 14 points from their six games in Group B, which gives them a five-point advantage over Israel and Cyprus in joint third.

They would virtually clinch their place at the finals in France by beating Cyprus and Israel in their September double-header.

Wales conclude their group games away to Bosnia-Hercegovina and home to Andorra in October.

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