In crucial qualifiers game at Cyprus last year he scored an 82nd-minute goal which sent Wales to EURO 2016 and now he scored their first ever goal in the tournament – Gareth Bale is the heart and soul of this team. When Bale caught Slovakia goalkeeper on the wrong foot and sent a free kick into the net some 25 meters out in the EURO 2016 Group B opener, 25,000 fans in red shirts fell into trance at Bordeaux stadium because their team scored first goal in major tournament in 58 years. They were even more joyous after Hal Robson-Kanu scored the winner in 81st minute.
Exactly ten years ago, Gareth Bale scored his first goal for Wales, at the age of 17, coincidently it also was a perfect free-kick against Slovakia, five months after becoming the youngest Welsh international in history. He has come a long way since that day and so has this team – Wales lost that game 5-1 and never dreamed of playing in major tournament and now after Saturday’s 2-1 win they are in good position to advance into knockout stage of EURO 2016. As for Bale in the meantime since that night in 2006 he has been the Premier League’s player of the year, the world’s most expensive footballer, and won Champions League twice with Real Madrid.
But none of this feats woke more emotion and passion with Bale than this victory and Wales’ first ever European Championship goal. The last tournament they played in was 1958 FIFA World Cup and the last player who scored against them was Brazilian legend Pele who was 17 years old that day in Sweden.
Although everything revolves around Bale in this Wales team he insists that their strength lies in unity. In this generation, which will be remembered for a long time in their country, every player has a big role according to Bale. He pointed that he wasn’t involved in the play in which Aaron Ramsey found Hal Robson-Kanu for the winner, and applauded Joe Allen for locking up the midfield while their defense held up as usual. Wales have allowed only four goals in qualifying. However, Bale’s influence in qualifiers was non-measurable of course – he scored seven of Wales’s 11 goals and assisted for two others.
After the final whistle against Slovakia Bale stood in the front of the stand washed in red color with his fists high up as the thousands of voices sang Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – Land of My Fathers, the national anthem of proud Wales. And should he bring them the victory against England in few days Gareth Bale will be immortalized in rich Welsh mitology.