Gareth Bale is expecting a feisty encounter with England on Thursday but the Real Madrid forward said Wales will not approach the match any differently despite being in a position of strength in Group B.
Hal Robson-Kanu’s late winner against Slovakia means Wales can play without pressure in Lens but Bale said they were focused only on trying to beat England.
“We understand it’s going to be a derby, it’s going to be feisty, but we’ll prepare well,” said Bale, who was speaking before England’s match against Russia in Marseille had finished. “We’re concentrating on ourselves and nobody else and we’ll be ready for the game.”
Asked whether the England fixture could almost be viewed as a free-hit for Wales because they already have three points, which could be enough to qualify for the last 16, Bale said: “I understand what you’re saying but for us we are just going to concentrate on the next game, we want to win the game, we want to play well and we want to do everything we did against Slovakia.”
Bale claimed on the eve of the Slovakia match that Wales have more pride and passion than England, and he was full of praise for the way the supporters got behind Chris Coleman’s team in Bordeaux on Saturday. There was a stirring rendition of the Wales anthem in the second half, after Slovakia had equalised and at a time when the game seemed to be slipping away from Wales.
“There’s no other fans like the Welsh,” Bale said. “No other country would think of doing things like that to lift the team. We were under the cosh a bit towards the end but our fans were the 12th man and pulled us through.”
Bale’s goal against Slovakia was his 20th for his country – his first for Wales was a free-kick against the same opponents almost a decade ago – but it was the victory that meant most to him. “Obviously on a personal level it’s great to get the goal but it really doesn’t matter who gets the goals – we just want the points,” he said. “We want the wins and we want to go as far as we can in this tournament. We’re all together and we all work hard together. It’s about the team, not about individuals.”
As with so many of his team-mates, Bale looked physically and emotional drained at the final whistle. “We have just worked so hard as a team, run until we couldn’t run any more,” Bale said. “We’ve just given everything for each other and that’s why we got the result.”
This article was written by Stuart James in Bordeaux, for theguardian.com on Sunday 12th June 2016 11.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010