Gareth Bale has warned Wales they must take Estonia seriously after his hat-trick helped them to dodge an embarrassing defeat against Belarus.
Bale struck a stoppage-time winner on Sunday to maintain Wales’s hopes of beating the Group E leaders Belgium to top spot in World Cup qualifying. Estonia are 110th in the Fifa world rankings and have not won a competitive game for almost three years, but Bale expects another stern test on Wednesday.
“Belarus, everyone was expecting us to win, and it turned out to be one of our hardest games,” said Bale, who is poised to win his 99th cap in Cardiff. “No game is guaranteed and we will be concentrating on our gameplan and performance to do the best we can at home. We’re fully focused on trying to win the group. If we win every game, we qualify. It’s still in our hands.”
Belgium are seven points clear of Wales but have played two games more. The two nations meet in November in the campaign’s final round of matches and Bale said the allure of leading Wales to a first World Cup since 1958 drives him on. “I believe there’s still more to achieve otherwise I wouldn’t be playing,” the 32-year-old said.
“We believe on our day we can beat any team, even when we maybe aren’t performing so well not we all stick together try and pull through and try and get that result which we proved the other night.
“It is on the top step internationally, playing against the best in the world on an international level. Obviously, a lot of players are not born into major countries who are able to qualify for multiple World Cups. It’s difficult but in terms of international football it is the pinnacle. It’s something every player dreams of playing in and qualifying for, and I am no different.”
After Bale’s 93rd-minute winner in Russia, Real Madrid tweeted “Mr Hat-Trick”. When asked about the praise, the Wales captain, who has had a difficult relationship with the Spanish press, replied: “I don’t read anything so I didn’t know they said anything. Football’s football. It’s very fickle. One minute they hate you, one minute they like you. It’s one of those things. It’s always nice to have nice words said. It can only be a positive, I guess.”
Robert Page, the interim Wales manager, said he does not expect to make many changes but Harry Wilson is available after a one-match ban and Ethan Ampadu, Tyler Roberts and Brandon Cooper, all of whom were unavailable for the game against Belarus because of visa problems, will also return. Joe Rodon has also returned to the squad after injury and, having trained on Tuesday, the Tottenham defender could make his first appearance for club or country since Wales’s Euro 2020 last-16 defeat against Denmark in June.
“He’s fully fit,” Page said. “He’s a massive part of what we’re doing moving forward and it is great to have him back.”