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Wales will not be a stepping stone for Belgium – Bale

Gareth Bale has dismissed any suggestion Wales will be a stepping stone for Belgium on their way to the Euro 2016 final.

Marc Wilmots’ men demolished Hungary 4-0 in the last 16 and find themselves facing what, on paper, is an easier route to the final than the likes of France, Germany and Italy.

But Wales, who are unbeaten in three matches against Belgium and won the last meeting in Cardiff 12 months ago, are determined to prolong their first major tournament in 58 years by reaching the semi-finals.

Asked whether his side were motivated by their underdog tag for the quarter-final clash in Lille, Bale said: “We don’t need extra motivation at all. They’re a very good team, we understand that.

“Their goal is to win the Euros and they see every team that they play as a stepping stone to the final and to winning.

“We don’t think it’s any disrespect or that we need any motivation from that. It’s their opinion.

“It’s about us concentrating on ourselves, doing our own gameplan and trying to execute it. We’ve beaten them before, so we can do that again.”

Asked what motivates him to continue producing for his country, the Real Madrid forward added: “The dragon on my shirt, that’s all I need.”

Wales are the only British nation remaining in the competition following England’s elimination at the hands of Iceland on Monday, and Bale – who also compared the tournament to “being with your mates on holiday” – believes it is a feat for the country to celebrate.

“It’s our time to shine,” he commented. “We’re the only home nation left in the competition, which is an amazing achievement in itself.

“The game against Northern Ireland [in the last 16] was a very ugly game which was not suited to us, but to win shows the team character and the spirit that we’ve got.

“We’re very proud and we’ll be flying the flag of Wales proudly.”

Team-mates Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor have spoken of having to abandon plans to attend a brother’s wedding and a Beyonce concert respectively in recent days, but Bale is somewhat better prepared.

“I planned everything for after the final. I was the clever one in the group, I think,” he quipped.

Wales are contesting their first quarter-final at a major tournament since losing to Brazil at the 1958 World Cup. They also reached the last eight of the 1976 European Championship, losing over two legs to Yugoslavia in a competition that saw just four teams progress to the finals.

Wed 29 Jun, 2016
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