Gareth Frank Bale (born 16 July 1989) is a retired Welsh footballer who played as a winger for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, Manchester United and the Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as the Welsh national team, which he captained to first place in its group stage and a penalty kick loss to Belgium in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Wales' first appearance in a World Cup in sixty years, and was a key part of the Wales team that two years earlier advanced to the quarterfinals at Euro 2016, the country's first international tournament since 1958.
International Career Edit
Bale scored seven goals in qualifying for Euro 2016 for Wales, sending Wales to their first international tournament since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, and would become their talisman in the tournament itself, scoring four goals and notching two assists as the Dragons placed second in Group B behind England and then defeated Austria 2-1 in the Round of 16 in Nice. Bale would be stymied by France in a 1-0 loss at the Stade de France but was hailed as a conquering hero when Wales returned. As longtime captain Ashley Williams retired from international play after the Euros, Bale was appointed Wales' captain for the next campaign.
In qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Bale scored eight goals to surpass Ian Rush as the top goalscorer in Wales history with 31 goals, and added six more goals in friendlies to enter the World Cup with 37 goals as a Wales player. During qualifying, Bale's Wales side won nine of ten matches (they drew against Austria away) to earn 28 points and kept six clean sheets, qualifying automatically at the top of their group to go to their first World Cup since 1958 and their second straight major international tournament. In Russia, Bale scored three goals and provided one assist, becoming the Wales player with the most goals in a single World Cup. Wales would top Group E behind a sublime team effort and a dazzling attack, and would lose on penalty kicks to Group F runner-up (and eventual bronze winners) Belgium.
Wales would enter qualifying for Euro 2020 as heavy favorites in what was considered a weak Group C, but injuries to Bale and other key contributors like Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey would cause Wales to fall to third in the group behind Sweden and Croatia. Bale would score three goals during the qualifying round, all at home against Iceland, Croatia and Luxembourg. Wales advanced to a play-off against rivals Ireland, drawing 1-1 both in Cardiff and in Dublin. Ireland would defeat Wales 7-6 on penalty kicks at Aviva Stadium and Wales was denied a third straight major.
In qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Australia, Wales played in Group F, which was widely regarded as the most difficult group as it included Germany and Switzerland as well as a decent Slovenia side. Wales finished third and was eliminated from contention.
Bale would continue to captain Wales until his retirement from the international game after the qualifiers for Euro 2024, which Wales once again lost in the play-off for third-placed teams, losing this time 5-3 on aggregate to Denmark. Bale finished his career with 113 caps and 61 goals, the most for any Wales player in history. He had over double as many goals as Ian Rush, the previous record holder.