Gareth Bale believes Wales’ Euro 2016 exploits will earn them more respect from other nations and the Real Madrid star is keen for further experiences of major international tournaments.
Wales’ sensational run in France ended in a 2-0 semi-final defeat to Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday, with two goals in the space of three second-half minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani proving decisive.
Bale was unable to find his fourth goal of the competition as he battled to haul Chris Coleman’s side back into the match, but he believes his team-mates will now be viewed differently having claimed victories over Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium during a memorable campaign.
“I think we’ve grown in confidence and grown in stature,” he said.”We’ll be more respected now.
“We said all along, we don’t just want to qualify for this tournament; we want to qualify for major tournaments every time we go into qualifiers.
“The hunger’s there, the spirit’s there. We’ll take all the positives and go into the next campaign trying to pull that off again.
“We always wanted to test ourselves against the best countries in the world. I think we’ve done everybody proud, done ourselves proud. We can hold our heads high and give it a right go again.”
Wales kick off their bid to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia against Moldova at Cardiff City Stadium in September, in a group also featuring Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland and Georgia.
“Our hunger is there more than ever now,” Bale said. “There is still a lot more to come, still a lot more to improve from us lot.
“Come the World Cup qualifiers, which are not too far away, we’ll get straight back to working hard and doing what we do best.
He added: “We have to be happy with what we’ve achieved. It hurts now because it’s fresh.
“We’ve been on an amazing journey. The whole nation has enjoyed the whole experience as much as us.
“It’s been one of those moments in life that you’ll never forget and is very special to all of us.”