Gareth Bale says Wales will use the “euphoria” of Euro 2016 and the pain of missing out on the 2018 World Cup as inspiration in Tuesday’s winner-takes-all Euro 2020 qualifier with Hungary.
Bale played a key role in Wales’ run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
But injury kept him out of the loss to the Republic of Ireland that ended Wales’ 2018 World Cup qualifying hopes.
“I think we can use both of [the experiences] to our advantage,” the Real Madrid forward said.
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“We have got the kind of euphoria of qualifying for our first Euros and doing so well at the competition that we really want to do that again.
“We’ve also got the negatives of knowing how it feels to miss out on qualifying for a tournament like we did with the World Cup.
“Looking back on that [Republic of Ireland match] now I think we can use that as a positive.
“We can see how we don’t want to feel after the game. We know prior to this game we can push and push not to feel like that again, because it’s not a feeling you want in the dressing room after the game.”
Bale feels ‘fit and ready’
Wales’ 2-0 victory in Baku over Azerbaijan and Slovakia’s 3-1 defeat in Croatia mean Wales will qualify automatically for Euro 2020 if they beat Hungary in Cardiff on Tuesday.
If there is a draw, that could open the door for Slovakia to secure the second automatic qualifying spot behind group winners Croatia if they beat Azerbaijan.
With little room for error, Wales have been boosted by the return to fitness of key pair Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
Bale returned from a month out injured to play an hour of Saturday’s 2-0 win in Azerbaijan.
He was replaced by Juventus midfielder Ramsey – returning from injury to make his first appearance of the qualifying campaign – as manager Ryan Giggs aimed to manage the workload of both players after spells on the sidelines.
Giggs believes both are ready to start against Hungary and, although he is unsure whether both will be able to play the full 90 minutes, Bale has no concerns about his own fitness.
“I’m ready. I hadn’t played in four weeks so it was important to get 60 minutes into my legs and get some match sharpness,” he said.
“We spoke at the start of the week about trying to get 60 minutes and hopefully being a couple [of goals] up before I came off so it worked out well, no problems, and I’m ready to go for Tuesday.”
‘Qualifying now might be even better than 2016’
It promises to be a momentous occasion at Cardiff City Stadium, as Wales bid to secure their place at only a third major tournament in their history.
Qualifying for Euro 2016 ended a 58-year wait and Wales followed up that achievement by reaching the semi-finals in France, eclipsing their run to the quarter-finals at the 1958 World Cup.
After missing out on last year’s World Cup with a home loss to the Republic of Ireland in their final qualifier in 2017, Wales now have the opportunity to qualify for a second successive European Championship.
Were they to do so, it would cap an impressive recovery from Giggs’ side, whose defeat in Hungary in June left them with just three points from their first three matches of this campaign.
But they are unbeaten since then and, with Wales generating momentum at just the right time, Bale believes qualifying again would rank alongside his proudest career achievements.
“It would be right up there yet again,” said the four-time Champions League winner.
“The experience of qualifying for the Euros was massive and something I’ve never done before and to do it again might be a bit more impressive.
“It’s going to stand in equal stead as last time but we can’t think about that just yet. We have another important match first and we have to focus on that as a team and a squad.”
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