Gareth Bale is “100 per cent fit and ready to go” for Wales at the World Cup in Qatar after battling injury issues.
The former Real Madrid winger’s fitness had been a concern before Robert Page named his 26-man squad for Wales’ first appearance at the World Cup in 64 years.
Bale has only started twice for Los Angeles FC since joining from Madrid in July, managing just 370 minutes on the pitch.
However, he scored an extra-time equaliser as a substitute against Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup final, which LAFC won on penalties on November 5.
Bale initially gave Wales reason to be concerned after the final as he said he felt “not 100 per cent fit”, but has since backtracked on those comments before travelling to the Middle East.
“I’m 100 per cent fit and ready to go,” the Wales international told Sky Sports after revealing his struggles with a “slight issue”.
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11)
Bale suggested playing the United States, England and Iran in Group B in the space of nine days would be “no problem”, with the mental aspects of being sidelined more of a problem than the physical side.
“I’m fully fit and ready to go. If I need to play three 90s, I’ll play three 90s,” he added. “It’s been difficult, mentally more than anything.
“I guess for everybody, the last three or four weeks, it’s been difficult, even hearing stories of players going down and knowing they’re going to miss the World Cup.
“Speaking to a few of the boys, even for them having to play this weekend was tough mentally, and we’re just praying not to have an injury at all because it’s such a big occasion.”
— Wales (@Cymru)
The tournament has been somewhat overshadowed due to human rights issues in Qatar.
Bale will be among eight captains to wear a distinctive heart-adorned armband, raising awareness for the OneLove campaign against discrimination in a country where same-sex marriage is prohibited.
“For us as footballers, it’s been a difficult subject to talk about,” said Bale. “But we can shed a light on the problems there that are going on.
“We’ve spoken to the FAW [football Association of Wales] and they’ve been speaking to Welsh government, who’ve been speaking to Qatar and FIFA, working on these issues.
“For us as players, we’re fully behind and support everything we can do. As footballers, the most we can do is raise awareness and it’s for people higher up to make those decisions, and hopefully make change for the better.”