Niko Kranjcar has made it clear that Croatia will be looking to ‘work on’ Gareth Bale when his nation meet Wales in the next round of World of World Cup qualifying matches.
Kranjcar has first hand experience of Bale from his days with Tottenham Hotspur and while he may not be up against Bale personally, he says Croatia have been working on a number of ways to contain him.
Bale is one of the most in form players in global football at the moment, as he continues his good record for Spurs this season, which currently reads 16 goals in 27 appearances.
The Croat has revealed that he doesn’t still stay in touch with Bale, but thinks Croatia can mute him effectively if they produce some of their best form.
One of the simplest ways they can go about the job is to try and prevent him moving the ball onto his left foot. This is difficult because Bale shifts the ball so quickly, before getting shots away at goal, which leave the goalkeeper with very little time to react.
Another tactic they could try against Wales is to force him into areas of the pitch where he is less effective. They could push him towards the corners of the pitch and try to contain him out wide where he is less of a goal threat.
Croatia will also be very aware that Bale is carrying an injury, which they will look to exploit if he does appear for Wales in the match as he’s said he’s planning to.
That doesn’t mean doing the dirty and deploying gamesmanship against him, it means testing his fitness out to the very limit by making him hit his maximums in order to be effective for Wales during the match.
Wales have added to the speculation that he will play in the matches against Scotland and Croatia, with him missing a recent Wales training session simply as a precaution to give him some extra rest after a Spurs match.
Kranjcar still holds a little bit of resentment towards Spurs, which is obvious because he doesn’t appear to stay in touch with anyone, but you have to take his comments with a pinch of salt because Croatia are a far better side than Wales.
If they win comfortably, he will point to the fact Bale was quiet during the game as some form of superiority when in context, it’s just one great player against a side with several great players.
How do you think Croatia can contain Bale?
image: © andybrannan