Gareth Bale returning to Cardiff to play for his hometown club "ticks all the boxes" according to Wales boss Robert Page.

Bale's contract at Real Madrid will expire at the end of this season, with only two games remaining for Los Blancos – Friday's home game against Real Betis to end the LaLiga season, before next Saturday's Champions League final with Liverpool.

While speculation around a potential retirement should Wales fail to qualify for the World Cup persists, he would likely need to find a new club in the event they progress past Scotland or Ukraine in June's playoff.

In response to rumours of a move to Cardiff for Bale, Page asserted that is simply feels right but respects his captain's right to make his own decisions after the playoff.

"It ticks all the boxes," he said. "Ultimately, it's Gareth's decision and Cardiff City's.

"I think he's right to say 'Let's throw full focus on to the fifth [of June]. Let's get there first and have that discussion.

"We can carry on talking about it and guess, have our opinion, and it does make sense. It makes a lot of sense. He can base himself at a training ground he's familiar with."

Bale has made a solitary appearance in LaLiga since February, coming on as a substitute late in the second half of Real Madrid's win over Getafe in April.

He has been sidelined with back problems since, with Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti even revealing it immobilised him at times.

The 32-year-old was named in Wales' 27-man squad for the June window, which includes four Nations League games, but could join camp if he is not named in Madrid's Champions League final squad.

"We will keep in touch with him," Page said. "It's common sense that if he is not going to feature at all, and Real Madrid are happy with releasing him, then of course we would like him on camp.

“They don’t have to. We don’t have the players [officially] until the 30th, so we can’t pull rank on that.

“We just have to go with what they suggest. Rightly so because he’s employed by the club, but if there’s an opportunity to get players in earlier then we would like that.”

Aaron Ramsey has the character to put his penalty miss in Rangers' Europa League final shoot-out defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt behind him, according to Wales boss Rob Page.

The on-loan Juventus midfielder, brought on in the second half of extra time, missed the only spot-kick as Frankfurt prevailed 5-4 in a game that finished level at 1-1 in Seville on Wednesday.

It marked the first time Rangers had tasted defeat on penalties in European competition since the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup when losing to Borussia Dortmund in the last 32.

Ramsey was visibly upset after Rafael Borre converted the decisive penalty for Frankfurt, who are the first German team to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League since Schalke in 1996-97.

But Page insists he has no worries about selecting the 31-year-old to take a penalty should Wales' upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine go the distance.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that if it comes to penalties that he will take one," Page said at a news conference on Thursday after naming his 27-man squad for that June 5 showdown in Cardiff.

Asked if he still has faith in Ramsey, Page said: "Absolutely, 100 per cent. It happens to the best in the world. Top players, they put themselves up.

"I am so proud of him for putting himself up [to take a penalty]. He is a world-class footballer. He had the courage and conviction to take a penalty. Top players recover from that, no problem."

Ramsey is part of Wales' latest squad, as is Gareth Bale, who will become a free agent when his Real Madrid contract expires in the coming weeks.

Bale's agent this week suggested a return to English football is the most likely option, with the forward aiming to keep fit ahead of November's World Cup should Wales qualify for the tournament for the first time in 64 years.

"I think everybody is probably thinking the same thing about his future," Page said. "It will depend on how results go with regards to what he does next season with a club.

"The only person who can answer that is Gareth. All I know is whenever he turns up for us he is first class. The full focus on himself is winning this game against Ukraine or Scotland, so he can worry about that after."

Bale has started just four games for Madrid in all competitions this season and has not been part of their matchday squad for any of their past five games because of a back problem.

The Wales skipper is back in training, however, and Page expects him to be part of Los Blancos' squad for next week's Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris.

"I think Gareth puts himself when he is fit to be available for Real Madrid like he does with us," Page said. "It is down to the manager then whether he wants to select him or not in the squad. 

"I think he is confident he will be involved and we will wait and see whether he is involved. We will then get him in camp as soon as we can."

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Gareth Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires in June as he hailed the forward who remains "a part of the history" at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid wrapped up the LaLiga title with four games to spare and host Real Betis on the final matchday of the league season, with a Champions League final against Liverpool to follow on May 28 in Paris.

Bale's role in their success to this point has been extremely limited, making just seven appearances in all competitions this season, totalling only 290 minutes of action.

The Wales international, who will hope to qualify for the World Cup when his country face either Ukraine or Scotland in their play-off final on June 5, was expected to leave Madrid when his contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ancelotti confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three final goals.

But his exit will mark the end of a turbulent stay in Madrid, with his Los Blancos commitment regularly coming under scrutiny from Madridistas and the Spanish press.

Ancelotti could not promise Bale a final farewell appearance at the Bernabeu on Friday as injury problems persist, but the Italian insisted the 32-year-old's name will be etched into Madrid's history books.

"Bale isn't 100 per cent fit, and he won't be in the squad. Tomorrow I'll choose if he's on the bench or in the stands," Ancelotti told a pre-match news conference.

Asked about his future, Ancelotti added: "The contract ends, and he will leave. It is not so important if he plays tomorrow. Bale is part of the history of this club. He will remain in the memory of all Madrid fans.

"He was important in the Decima [the club's 10th Champions League win], in Kyiv, in the Copa del Rey. He has written important pages in this club's history, and we have to take that into account."

While Bale will not feature against Betis, who are winless in their past 10 LaLiga visits to teams from the Madrid region, Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side to build fitness for the Champions League final.

"I think about giving minutes to the players who need it the most," Ancelotti continued. "Tomorrow Marcelo, [Luka] Modric... [David] Alaba will train with the group starting on Monday."

Karim Benzema has scored 27 goals in LaLiga this season and is set to become the first French player to finish a campaign as the top scorer in the competition's history, but he is expected to be rested again.

Despite fielding another heavily rotated side, Ancelotti expects an exciting game against Copa del Rey winners Betis.

"We are the two teams that have won the competitions," he added. "It will be an entertaining game because Betis plays quality football."

Gareth Bale could be set for a return to English football when his Real Madrid contract expires next month, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett, who has confirmed the winger's imminent exit from the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 32-year-old already looked set to leave Los Blancos at the end of his deal, with Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti saying last month that Bale wanted "to finish on a high note" with the club.

While Madrid wrapped up their 35th league title recently, Bale's role in that success was virtually none-existent, with the former Tottenham man making just seven appearances all season in all competitions, totalling just 290 minutes of action.

Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three goals in finals of the competition (one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two against Liverpool in 2018).

However, he has attracted the ire of the club's fans ever since he paraded a flag bearing the slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020, and was described as a "parasite" in Spanish sports daily Marca earlier this year.

Bale remains a key man for his country, scoring a brace in Wales' 2-1 World Cup qualification win over Austria in March to put them within one win of reaching the tournament in Qatar, and Barnett says the result of the Dragons' June play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine will inform any decision on the player's future.

He also hinted Bale could return to England next season, having returned to Tottenham on loan for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign. 

"Gareth will leave Real Madrid, but we have to wait for what Wales will be able to do," Barnett told Portuguese outlet Record.

"It all depends on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup, then we will make a decision, which may vary on whether or not Wales go to the World Cup. 

"Is he likely to return to England? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see."

Wales will face either Scotland or Ukraine on June 5 in Cardiff for a place at the World Cup, where they would face England after being drawn into Group B. 

Carlo Ancelotti insisted there are no problems with Gareth Bale within the Real Madrid dressing room after the Wales international missed Los Blancos' LaLiga title celebrations.

Madrid lifted their 35th league title last Saturday after a 4-0 hammering of Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Los Blancos celebrated on the pitch with the trophy in front of supporters after the game.

Ancelotti's side then embarked on a bus parade around the Spanish capital the following day, but Bale was not present on both occasions as he cited "back spasms" for his absence.

Eden Hazard, much like Bale, has not featured often for Madrid this season but could be seen joyously involved with the midweek celebrations after a dramatic Champions League win over Manchester City.

That continued the speculation as to the popularity of Bale, who has just played five times in LaLiga this season, but Ancelotti believes his side hold a "mutual respect" for the former Tottenham man.

"There is no distance with the dressing room, they have mutual affection, he was absent because he could not move. It happened to me," the Italian told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos is another Los Blancos name linked with the exit door in the next transfer window, but has been offered more chances in recent weeks, featuring in eight of the last nine games.

Ancelotti revealed his desire to keep the midfielder at the club ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

"I've had a chat with Ceballos, he knows what I think of him, what the club think of him and he has to make what he thinks is the best decision," he added.

"He knows what I think, what his team-mates think, then he has to sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti reserved special praise for right-back Dani Carvajal, who impressed against Pep Guardiola's City in the remarkable Champions League turnaround.

"He has struggled with injuries but he's got a good, strong personality," he continued. "I know he's been frustrated at times and has not been able to deliver to 100 per cent.

"He was outstanding against Manchester City. Nobody has ever thrown in the towel, given up. To wear the Real Madrid shirt means a lot to these players, Carvajal now is in excellent shape, he's helping a lot.

"Also, when the team need him most he's there."

Gareth Bale will miss Real Madrid's trip to Osasuna on Wednesday in LaLiga, the club have announced.

The 32-year-old has played just 290 minutes of football for Madrid in all competitions this season, scoring once in seven appearances, four of which have been starts.

In a brief statement on the club's website, the league leaders referred to Bale's absence as "a last-minute withdrawal from the squad".

A one-sentence announcement, declining to give a reason, then read: "He's not available for tonight's match against Osasuna."

The Wales winger will leave the Santiago Bernabeu when his contract expires in June, with national team manager Rob Page recently saying Bale would "definitely" continue his club career next season, as he eyes a potential World Cup appearance in Qatar.

Having opened up a 15-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, Carlo Ancelotti's side would take another huge step towards the club's 35th league title by beating Osasuna, against whom they are unbeaten in 13 league matches.

After a cardiac episode at Euro 2020, there were questions about whether Christian Eriksen would ever be able to play football again, let alone at the highest level.

But less than a year after being released from his contract at Inter, the Denmark international is a hot commodity once again.

Since signing with Brentford on a six-month deal, Eriksen has displayed the quality that saw him net 69 goals over six and a half seasons for Tottenham, and now Premier League teams are circling.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE WANT ERIKSEN AS FLAGSHIP SIGNING

Tottenham have been linked with Eriksen in a potential reunion in the upcoming transfer window, but they are reportedly going to have to contend with Newcastle United, who wish to make him a "flagship" signing, per the Northern Echo.

Being out of contract, Eriksen will have his pick of potential suitors, yet Newcastle will likely have deep enough pockets to contend with anyone serious about adding the midfielder.

Since his return from the bench against Newcastle, Brentford have won all four Premier League matches in which Eriksen has played 90 minutes, including a 4-1 away win at Chelsea, where he scored.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider is reporting Mohamed Salah is close to signing an extension with Liverpool that will pay him £400,000 per week.

West Ham have entered the race for Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, per Calciomercato.

– 90min is reporting Edinson Cavani may be Manchester United's "secret weapon" in their quest to sign fellow Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez from Benfica in the upcoming transfer window.

Cardiff City and Tottenham are joint-favourites to land the services of Wales international Gareth Bale when his contract with Real Madrid expires in June, per Wales Online.

– According to the Chronicle, both Arsenal and Newcastle are heavily linked with Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who is expected to fetch a price of around £58million.

Gareth Bale will "definitely" continue to play club football next season if Wales qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, says national team boss Rob Page.

Page also vehemently defended Bale against recent media criticism in Spain, saying he was angered by Marca's depiction of the Real Madrid winger as a "parasite" last month.

Bale's future has been called into question in recent weeks, with the 32-year-old making just four starts for Carlo Ancelotti's team in LaLiga this season and speculation abounding that the wideman could call time on his club career.

However, Wales' caretaker manager Page is certain the four-time Champions League winner would continue playing to fulfil his dream of featuring at a World Cup, should Wales qualify, although he was none the wiser as to where he would go when his Madrid contract expires in June.

"If we get to the World Cup in November, then he will definitely be playing football," Page told the Athletic. "The World Cup is his dream, the one thing missing from his CV. 

"Where he'll play, I'm not sure, whether he comes home, stays in Spain, fancies another challenge, I really don't know."

Bale netted twice in Wales' crucial 2-1 victory against Austria last month, including a stunning free-kick opener, to send the Dragons to June's play-off final in Cardiff.

If Wales beat either Scotland or Ukraine to secure a place in Qatar, they will make their first World Cup appearance since 1958, and would feature in the same group as rivals England.

Page was also asked about the Spanish media's coverage of Bale's Real Madrid career, saying he was left fuming by Marca depicting Bale as a "parasite" last month.

"I'm absolutely appalled by it," he added. "I know Gareth well now and a lot of people don't see what he does off the pitch, the donations he made to the NHS recently, to a hospital in Cardiff, a considerable amount of money.

"He doesn't get credit for that because he doesn't shout about it and people don’t hear about it. He keeps it to himself. 

"That parasite comment made my blood boil. I don't like that. 

"That's not the Gareth Bale who is the captain of our country, who represents us, and he never will be that."

Bale is the top goalscorer in the history of the Welsh national team, netting 38 times in his 102 senior caps to date. Only Chris Gunter, meanwhile, has made more appearances for Wales, winning five caps more than the Madrid winger.

Casemiro has urged Real Madrid fans to stop targeting Gareth Bale as "when you whistle a player like that, you're whistling the history of this club".

Bale was whistled at by Los Blancos supporters when he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 LaLiga win over Getafe at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

The forward has only played five games for the leaders in the Spanish top flight this season and Madrid fans were not impressed when he declared himself unfit for a Clasico hammering against Barcelona last month, before inspiring Wales to a World Cup play-off win over Austria four days later.

Bale has won the Champions League four times and LaLiga twice since arriving in the Spanish capital nine years ago, but his relationship with Madrid fans has soured.

The 32-year-old, who is set to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season, did not do himself any favours when he held a flag with the words 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' after helping his country qualify for Euro 2020.

Yet Madrid midfielder Casemiro has called on supporters to lay off Bale ahead of the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Chelsea on Tuesday.

The Brazil international said: "When you whistle one player, you whistle all of us. Football is about opinions, everyone has theirs, but I don't agree when a player on my team is whistled. We're all on the same side, we have to support him."

He added: "I didn't like the whistles the other day for Bale. He's a historic player for this club. He's scored a lot of important goals for this club.

"When you whistle a player like that, you're whistling the history of this club. I didn't like it. I think the fans have to support us."

Madrid will start the clash against holders Chelsea with a 3-1 lead but Casemiro says they must not think it is job done.

He said: "We have to go in to it with the idea that it's going to be a very difficult game. We had our best 90 minutes of the season in the first leg, but we can't be complacent, especially given the coach's words about them.

"I'd like to ask the fans to get behind us because it'll be difficult as we're up against the champions and we respect them. We have to give our all along with the fans because it'll be very, very difficult."

Casemiro added: "When talking about Real Madrid, we always talk about winning everything. Everyone wanted to win a title at the start of the season, to be in the knockout stages like this and 12 points clear in LaLiga. We're working hard, but we've still got the hardest part to come."

Carlo Ancelotti praised Gareth Bale's professionalism after the Welshman was subjected to boos from sections of the Real Madrid fanbase during Saturday's win against Getafe.

Bale was a 74th-minute substitute during the 2-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, completing four of five passes and hitting two shots, one of which tested Getafe goalkeeper David Soria from distance.

The 32-year-old has been a divisive figure in the Spanish capital, scoring crucial goals and winning four Champions League trophies in his time there, but he has missed a lot of football through injury in recent years.

Bale has also made it known he prefers to play for Wales than for his club, and is expected to bring his nine years at Madrid to an end when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ancelotti refused to criticise the fans, but did praise Bale and insisted he will continue to play if fit.

"The fans are very important, such as against PSG," he said, referring to the recent dramatic 3-2 aggregate turnaround in the Champions League round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. 

"Bale has been whistled but he's a serious professional and if he's well, he can play."

Goals from Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez sealed the win, which restored Madrid's 12-point lead at the top of LaLiga, and Ancelotti was satisfied with his team's performance, but insisted the title race is not yet over.

"We're closer [to the title]," he said. "It's a good run but it's not over yet, we have to keep fighting, we have two away games now with Sevilla and Osasuna."

Los Blancos' next game is on Tuesday when Chelsea come to Spain for their Champions League quarter-final second leg, where Madrid will have a 3-1 aggregate lead.

The Blues warmed up for the clash with an emphatic 6-0 win at Southampton on Saturday, and Ancelotti remains wary of his former club, saying: "It will be a difficult game, we have to prepare it as if we don't have that advantage.

"Today, [Chelsea] won by many goals. We are going to have to be very focused."

Carlo Ancelotti wants Gareth Bale to leave Real Madrid in a blaze of glory rather than with his reputation sullied, hailing the Welsh winger as a history maker.

Bale was a €100million (£85.3m) signing from Tottenham nine years ago during Ancelotti's first stint as Los Blancos coach, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema he formed part of a thrilling front three.

The 32-year-old has already won the Champions League four times in Madrid, as well as two LaLiga titles, but in recent seasons Bale has been nudged towards the fringes of the squad.

Injuries have been a factor, and while Bale has been reliably brilliant for the Wales national team, opportunities in Madrid have become sporadic. He spent last season on loan at Tottenham.

His contract expires at the end of June, and Bale will be moving on. This season he has faced vicious criticism in some sections of the Spanish media, recently being dubbed a "parasite" in sports daily Marca, and there has been a danger of him leaving without any fanfare, or even amid a torrent of negativity.

Bale did not help himself when he paraded a flag bearing the immortal slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020.

Yet head coach Ancelotti says Bale, who could face Getafe in LaLiga on Saturday, is worthy of respect for his achievements in Spain.

He has scored 81 goals in 175 LaLiga games for the club, and has managed five goals and two assists in eight league games against Getafe.

In the Champions League, Bale has totted up 16 goals and 12 assists in 41 starts and 16 substitute appearances. That figure includes two crucial goals in Madrid's 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in the 2018 final in Kyiv.

The most recent outing from the bench came on Wednesday, late in the day as Madrid won 3-1 at Chelsea in the first leg of their quarter-final.

Madrid could yet win a famous double in Bale's final season at the club.

"Gareth Bale is fit right now. I'm sure he wants to show it here at Real Madrid," said Ancelotti. "It would be deserved and right for him to bid farewell to the Bernabeu.

"He expects confidence in him from us. He wants to finish his career at Real Madrid on a high note. We will see how it goes.

"He has already made history at Real Madrid with his games, his goals and his triumphs. He's a very respected player, and we want the best for him."

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale will wait until after Wales' World Cup qualifying play-off final in June before deciding on his future, agent Jonathan Barnett has said.

Bale is out of contract at the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season and is widely expected to depart after spending nine years in the Spanish capital.

The 32-year-old has won 14 trophies during his time with Madrid, including four Champions Leagues, but he has been accused of often prioritising Wales over his club side.

Indeed, Bale has played in just five of Los Blancos' 42 matches in all competitions this term, totalling 270 minutes on the field – the equivalent of just three games.

Bale has played over 330 minutes for Wales this season, however, scoring five goals across six matches.

While the former Tottenham star's future is a hot topic of debate, he has yet to decide on his future at club level beyond the end of the season.

"We have not discussed anything yet," agent Barnett told BBC Sport. "Once we know Wales' situation with the World Cup, we will discuss it then."

 

Bale scored twice in Wales' 2-1 win over Austria in last week's qualifying play-off semi-final, leaving his country one game away from a first World Cup appearance since 1958.

That took his tally in a Wales shirt to 38 goals in 102 caps, making him his country's record goalscorer, while only Chris Gunter (107) has earned more caps.

The Dragons will now face either Scotland or Ukraine in a one-legged final at Cardiff City Stadium, with that fixture expected to be staged in June.

At club level, Bale's relationship with Madrid supporters and the Spanish press has continued to deteriorate after being labelled a "parasite" by daily sports newspaper Marca.

A third spell with Tottenham has been mooted once Bale departs Madrid, while a switch to MLS is also reportedly a possibility, as is a move to home club Cardiff City.

Gareth Bale took aim at the media again on Friday, responding to scathing recent coverage of him in Spain.

The Wales international was the hero for his country on Thursday after scoring two excellent goals to seal a 2-1 win against Austria and put them just one game away from qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar.

However, Bale has rarely featured for Real Madrid, his club side, this season, playing in just five of their 42 matches in all competitions, totalling 270 minutes on the field – the equivalent of three whole games.

Spanish outlet Marca has labelled the winger a "parasite", also accusing him of "sucking" money out of the club.

Bale had described the criticism as "disgusting" after the Austria win, and he took to Twitter on Friday to further express his exasperation, saying journalists needed to be held accountable for the impact of their reports on athletes.

"The Daily Mail shining a light on this piece of slanderous, derogatory and speculative journalism by Marca," he wrote.

"At a time where people are taking their own lives because of the callousness and relentlessness of the media, I want to know, who is holding these journalists and the news outlets that allow them to write articles like this, accountable?

"Fortunately I have developed thick skin during my time in the public spotlight, but that doesn't mean articles like these don't cause damage and upset personally and professionally to those at the receiving end of these malicious stories.

"I have witnessed the toll the media can take on people's mental and physical health."

Bale moved to the Santiago Bernabeu from Tottenham in 2013 and has won two LaLiga titles, a Copa del Rey, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups.

"The media expect superhuman performances from professional athletes, and will be the first to celebrate with them when they deliver," he continued. "Yet instead of commiserating with them when they show an ounce of human error, they are torn to shreds instead, encouraging anger and disappointment in their fans.

"The everyday pressures on athletes is immense, and it's as clear as day how negative media attention could easily send an already stressed athlete, or anybody in the public eye, over the edge.

"I hope that by the time our children are of an age where they are able to ingest news, that journalism ethics and standards will have been enforced more stringently.

"So I want to use my platform to encourage change in the way we publicly talk about, and criticise people, simply for the most part, not meeting the often unrealistic expectations that are projected onto them.

"We all know who the real Parasite is!"

Gareth Bale described the criticism he has been the subject of as a Real Madrid player as "disgusting" after leading Wales into a World Cup play-off final.

Bale has played in just five of Madrid's 42 matches in all competitions this season, totalling 270 minutes on the field – the equivalent of three whole games.

Once the most expensive player in world football, the winger was absent for Madrid's most recent match, a painful 4-0 defeat to bitter rivals Barcelona.

However, Bale was back and back to his best when Wales came calling on Thursday.

The 32-year-old captained his country to a 2-1 win against Austria in their play-off semi-final, scoring two sublime goals – the first a breathtaking free-kick.

Bale appeared to play through the pain barrier in a brilliant display, eventually making way while holding his groin.

The former Tottenham man appeared to enjoy the celebrations, but his tone shifted slightly when asked if he had a message for his critics in Spain.

"No," he told Sky Sports. "I don't need to send a message, honestly. It's a waste of my time.

"It's disgusting, they should all be ashamed of themselves. I'm not fussed. End of."

Bale has come into form at a great time for Wales, scoring five goals in his past four international appearances – more than in his previous 28 games for his country (four).

In European qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, only five players have been involved in more goals than Bale's eight (five goals, three assists).

Wales will play either Scotland or Ukraine for a place in Qatar, with that decider at home, where Bale and Co. are unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions.

Gareth Bale scored a pair of stunning goals to secure a home World Cup play-off final for Wales against either Scotland or Ukraine.

Wales have not qualified for a World Cup since 1958 and surely will not get a better opportunity than ahead of Qatar 2022.

Rob Page's side hosted Austria in their play-off semi-final on Thursday and once again relied on Real Madrid superstar Bale to prove the difference in a 2-1 win.

He netted the opener with a sublime first-half free-kick, then doubled Wales' lead with another brilliant effort, placed high past the Austria goalkeeper.

Only a Ben Davies own goal – deflecting Marcel Sabitzer's shot beyond Wayne Hennessey – threatened to spoil the Welsh party, as they held on despite Bale's withdrawal in stoppage time with an apparent groin injury.

Bale will at least have time to recover from that issue before the final, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine saw the former banned from FIFA competitions and the latter allowed to postpone their semi against Scotland.

No date has yet been set for the Scotland tie, with Steve Clarke's men instead facing Poland – Russia's planned play-off opponents – in a friendly they drew 1-1 on Thursday.

Krzysztof Piatek's 94th-minute penalty rescued a draw for Poland, albeit that goal came earlier than Sweden's decisive strike against Czech Republic.

Sweden will be Poland's final opponents after Robin Quaison finished off a smart team move with 10 minutes remaining in extra time following a goalless draw – that 1-0 victory teeing up the trip to Chorzow on Tuesday.

Page 1 of 9
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.