Gareth Bale scores for Wales against USA: Captain defies declining powers to keep delivering big moments | Football news
When Wales last played in a World Cup, their first game ended in a 1-1 draw with the great John Charles scoring the equaliser. Sixty-four years later, it was fitting that fellow Welsh hero Gareth Bale equalized as they returned to the final.
It had to be Bale. For 45 minutes, the game passed him by. The USA, all speed and effort, fueled by the optimism of youth, seemed to steal the show. Kieffer Moore’s introduction changed the tone. But it took Bale to change the result.
Walker Zimmerman lunged for the ball in the box but the Wales captain had seen him coming. It was reckless by Zimmerman, but cunning by Bale. With the red wall waiting behind the goal, he thundered home the penalty with the conviction of a man who knew scripts.
No Wales fan would have wanted it any other way. At 33, here he was, the country’s record goalscorer, by some goals the most successful footballer ever to come from the British Isles, finally gracing the World Cup and marking the occasion with an important goal.
The nation’s football fans have had to wait since 1958 for this moment, but Bale’s own patience has also been tested. On the eve of the last World Cup, Bale was Real Madrid’s man of the match against Liverpool after scoring twice in the Champions League final.
Wales didn’t make it to Russia.
Just before the last tournament in 2014, he scored what turned out to be the extra time in that year’s Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.
Wales didn’t make it to Brazil either.
While it may be seen as sacrilege for Wales supporters to read it, let someone write it, this version of Bale is a shadow of the talent that took over matches at their absolute peak and decorated them with quality and class for years after the.
He is a curiosity now. Logic tells you he is way past his prime. It should be obvious. The wonderful runs from the deep are no more. There were times against the United States when the movement around him made him appear as a man out of his time.
How could he not be? Bale has started just two club games since moving to Los Angeles in the summer and made just four starts for Real Madrid in the season before that. The rumor that he is a part-time player is not entirely true, but it is not without substance either.
But what makes his career so extraordinary, what makes his Wales legend continue to grow, is that his physical decline still doesn’t stop him from conjuring up those moments for his country. Some of his very greatest in a Wales shirt came in 2022.
It was his two goals that won the semi-final in the World Cup play-off against Austria and his rejected free kick that decided the equalizer against Ukraine. He was the top scorer and produced the most assists in the qualifier despite being on the pitch for just over half of it.
There was further evidence of that outrageous ability to bend the big occasion to his will when he came off the bench to score a 128th-minute equalizer for Los Angeles in the MLS Cup final earlier this month. Now, in his very next appearance, he produces this.
Maybe some players are just special. The moments seem to find them. Or maybe the big ones keep their composure when others lose theirs. The unhappy Zimmerman, for example, made a hasty decision under pressure. Bale made the right ones when it mattered.
It could have been even crazier. If Kellyn Acosta had allowed him to shoot from near the halfway line in stoppage time, with Matt Turner well off the line, instead of hacking down his Los Angeles team-mate, Bale may well have scored a truly upset winner.
It sure was a Hollywood ending too much. But thanks to his latest heroics, the remarkable thing about Bale’s history with Wales is that the end is yet to come.