Speaking before Saturday’s last-16 tie against Northern Ireland in Paris, Bale also outlined his determination to set the bar as high as possible and try to win Euro 2016 with Wales.
Wales qualified for the knockout stage with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Russia in Toulouse on Monday night, pipping England to first place after Hodgson’s team were held to a goalless draw against Slovakia, and Bale could not help but smile when asked whether that gave him extra satisfaction.
“It is a moral victory for us,” he said. “A bit of bragging rights that we finished top and it’s always nice to get one over on the English.”
On the face of it Wales are clear favourites for the game against Northern Ireland at the Parc des Princes in Paris. They won two of their group games, played with supreme confidence against Russia and have the world’s most expensive footballer and the tournament’s joint leading scorer in Bale.
“That’s for you to decide,” Bale said when it was suggested to him that Wales will be strongly fancied and that a potential quarter-final against Belgium in Lille awaits. “We just concentrate on ourselves. The tag doesn’t matter to us. We all know what we have to do and we’ll go out to win the game. Obviously you come to the tournament for one reason: to win. Not to play three games and go home. The ultimate goal is we want to try and win the tournament.
“But each and every game is as important as the last. It’s a cliche but we’ll take each one as it comes. Yes we would love to win it, but all our focus now is on Northern Ireland. Until that whistle goes and we’re through we can’t think about Belgium. We know our side of the draw, maybe it is more favourable. But it is not favourable if you don’t get through.”
Bale said there was “no fear” within Chris Coleman’s squad and also made the point that their achievements so far were made all the more enjoyable by the fact that this group of players had come through some dark times.
“It’s an amazing feeling in the camp,” said Bale, who made his Wales debut just over a decade ago.
“We’ve not just been working on this for two years. It’s been since we were all young boys, playing together. I was 16, some were 17, 18. We’ve come through a massive journey. We’ve been in some bad places, we were 112th in the world. Now we’re in the last 16 of the Euros. So these days are to enjoy.”
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