Euro 2016: 'Wales v Portugal, not Gareth Bale v Cristiano Ronaldo'

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As Wales prepare for the semi-final of Euro 2016 against Portugal, Gareth Bale says the team is the star, not him
Portugal v Wales
Date: Wednesday, 6 July Venue: Stade de Lyon, Lyon Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and text commentary online & on BBC Sport app

Gareth Bale has played down the significance of his duel with Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Wales' Euro 2016 semi-final against Portugal.

Their relationship has been the subject of intense media scrutiny, with both insisting there is no rift.

They meet in Lyon on Wednesday, Wales' first semi-final at a major tournament.

"It's not about two players, it is about two nations in a semi-final, 11 men against 11 men," said Wales' Bale.

"Everybody knows that really."

Bale became the world's most expensive footballer when he joined Real from Tottenham for £85m in 2013, surpassing the £80m the Spanish club paid Manchester United for Ronaldo in 2009.

The two players have formed a potent attacking three with French striker Karim Benzema, helping Real to win two Champions League titles in the past three seasons.

Bale and Ronaldo
Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a combined transfer fee that exceeds £165m

However, the relationship between Bale and Ronaldo has not always been harmonious.

The Portugal captain was pictured gesticulating angrily when Bale did not pass to him during a game in 2015, prompting speculation of discord between the pair.

Both have dismissed such talk, while former Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said in a recent BBC Wales documentary about Bale that the two players are "really close".

"Of course we get on very well at Madrid, we enjoy playing with each other," said Bale.

"He's a fantastic player, everybody knows what he can do. But we have always spoken about what we do, what we do ourselves as a team. We don't worry about the opposition."

'We all believed from the start'

Wednesday's match in Lyon will be Ronaldo's third European Championship semi-final, and he was part of the Portugal side which lost the 2004 final to Greece.

Bale's three goals have helped Wales reach the last four of a major tournament for the first time, and he has reiterated his belief that Chris Coleman's men could be crowned champions.

"We all believed from the start. As we have said many times, we didn't come here to make up the numbers," he added.

"We came here to do a job, we came to do the business. Ultimately we want to win the tournament.

"We know we're a step closer again but, the thing we keep saying time and time again, we can't think past the semi-final now.

"We have to concentrate everything on the semi. If we can get the job done, then we can look forward to the final."

Gareth Bale
Bale has scored three goals so far at Euro 2016

Who's laughing now, Toni?

With Wales making their first appearance at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, Bale is glad he no longer has to endure taunts from his Real team-mates.

"I remember [Germany midfielder] Toni Kroos saying we'd only have three games. So it would be nice to meet him in the final," he said.

"It was a good laugh and a joke - a bit of banter. I have had a lot of abuse over the years, when we used to lose and when we were 100th in the world. You have nine weeks' holiday instead of two.

"It is good to finally be in a major tournament actually doing great things with our national team. It is great to be part of and we have loved every moment of it and we will continue to do that."

While Kroos may await in the final if Wales make it, Bale can look forward to facing Real centre-back Pepe - if fit - as well as Ronaldo in Wednesday's semi-final against Portugal.

The Wales forward has also brought his Real physiotherapist, Jaime Benito, with him to France to work alongside the international backroom staff.

"I had a few injuries this year and coming to a big tournament I haven't experienced it before so I wanted to make sure I was fully fit and if there was a problem I can get it fixed straight away," Bale added.

"It's been a massive help for me and even the medical staff here have probably needed it more because they didn't want to take any of the others out for so long and leave any of the other boys without treatment. It was a good decision all round and it's working well."


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