Bale eclipses Charles, Giggs and Rush as highest achiever in a Wales shirt | Jonathan Wilson

He does not dominate matches as he once did but Bale was instrumental in the goal that sent his country to their first World Cup finals in 64 yearsIt was about Gareth Bale. If it was about Wales, it was always going to be about Bale. He may have played only 22 minutes of football in the 10 weeks since the playoff semi-final win over Austria; he may not be able to last anything like a full game; he may in effect have become a former player as far as Real Madrid are concerned; but he is still the player who makes Wales more than just another mid‑ranking side.There will be those who have their subjective preferences for John Charles or Ryan Giggs, Ivor Allchurch or Ian Rush, but what can be said now is that nobody has ever achieved more in a Wales shirt. It is not just that he inspired them to reach the semi-finals of the European Championship and to secure a first qualification for a World Cup in 64 years. It is that he achieved those feats six years apart. Remnants remain but this is an obviously different side from Chris Coleman’s and Bale has been key to both of them.

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