Lyon (France), July 7 (IANS) Welsh football star Gareth Bale has praised his team’s show of “pride and passion” at the European Championship and has urged the side to target regular qualification for major tournaments in future after their remarkable campaign was brought to a juddering halt at the semi-final stage by Portugal.
Bale’s Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Fernando Santos’s side to 2-0 victory, imposing himself on the contest after the first half to propel Portugal into the final, against either France or Germany on Sunday.
“It’s very disappointing to be so close to the final but this is a proud moment for us. We have achieved a lot. We had pride and passion and the fans are the best in the world, by far. We wish we could have done it for them but we’ve given everything on the pitch, off the pitch. We’ve tried to enjoy the experience of the tournament and we’ve had a taste of it now, so we look forward to the future,” Bale told the media after the loss.
“We have confidence and we don’t want to turn up to one tournament. It’s about the bigger picture. We’re disappointed but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’re a proud bunch and we’ll stick together, lift the spirits and go again. Nobody expected us to get this far but we’re very proud and have no regrets. We’ll continue to battle on.”
Wales will face Austria, Serbia and the Republic of Ireland in qualification Group D to reach the World Cup in Russia in two years’ time, with the aspiration to capitalise on their performance at Euro 2016 by becoming regulars at major tournaments which was duly echoed by the head coach, Chris Coleman.
“That has always been the target: qualifying regularly. There was a psychological barrier we needed to go through to reach the first one, given it had been so long since our last appearance,” Coleman said.
“We’ve now sampled tournament football, and it was such an experience such a healthy vibe from people of all nations. It’s been completely different from what we expected, a different challenge, and you can’t predict what it’s going to be like unless you’ve already been through it for six or seven weeks: we faced all sorts of challenges as a squad and as a group and we’ve come through them all up to this one. We want some more of that. We need some more of that.”
The Wales coach admitted Aaron Ramsey’s suspension, following two yellow cards, had affected a team who had shown signs of fatigue.
“But I’d find it difficult to say to any of my lads that they could have done any more. They left everything out there. We came up short tonight but this bunch doesn’t usually come up short. It would be ludicrous of me to criticise any one of them,” Coleman added.