Ryan Giggs has resigned as manager of the Wales national team.

Giggs stepped back from his role as Wales boss, which he assumed in 2018, in November 2020 after being arrested of suspicion of assault. He was charged with assaulting two women by Greater Manchester Police in April 2021.

The former Manchester United winger was replaced by Robert Page for Wales' campaign at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, with the caretaker boss since leading the team to qualification for the World Cup later this year.

Giggs was originally due to face trial on January 24 this year after being charged with causing actual bodily harm to a woman in her 30s and common assault of a woman in her 20s, but his case was adjourned until August 8 due to a lack of court space.

The 48-year-old has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges, as well as to one count of controlling and coercive behaviour.

He announced on Monday he was stepping down to allow the team to prepare for the World Cup without any distractions.

"After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men's national team with immediate effect," read a statement issued by Giggs.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the FAW, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach."

In the statement, widely reported by UK media, Giggs said: "I do not want the country's preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case. I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some unforgettable moments during my three years in charge of the national team.

"I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.

"It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date and I look forward to watching our national team alongside you in the stands."

In a separate statement, the Football Association of Wales said: "The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men's national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football.

"The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men's national team is on the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year."

Wales forward Gareth Bale will not rush into a decision on his club future, but has categorically ruled out a move to LaLiga side Getafe.

Bale will become a free agent at the end of the month when his contract with Real Madrid, where he has spent the past nine years, officially expires.

The 32-year-old has been linked with an array of clubs across Europe and in the United States, one of those being Madrid-based Getafe.

Speaking earlier this week, Getafe president Angel Torres claimed the Spanish side had been contacted by Bale's representatives regarding a possible transfer.

However, Bale denied that was the case when speaking at a news conference that was again dominated by questions regarding his next career move.

Asked if he was close to making a decision, the former Tottenham man laughed and said: "No. But I'm not going to Getafe, that's for sure.

"I just want to be playing going into the World Cup to be as fit as I can. The manager saying ideally he wants everybody to be playing, and everybody wants to be playing.

"Hopefully I can enjoy my holiday and then decide where I want to be and what I want to do to try and play games to be as fit as I can for the World Cup."

Bale won 16 trophies during his time with Madrid, but he barely played in the 2021-22 campaign, which ended with Los Blancos winning a LaLiga and Champions League double.

 

He featured in seven of Madrid's 56 matches in all competitions – 13 per cent – with just four of those being starts.

"Once I get back into playing regular football, my body will get more robust and a bit better," Bale said on Friday.

"It's very difficult when you're in and out of a team to get a rhythm in terms of your fitness and health. 

"Any player will tell you, playing week-in week-out, your body becomes more robust, you get used to it and you get fitter. I just need to play games and I'll be good to go.

"I guess whoever I go to it'll be a win-win because hopefully I'll be playing well and getting myself ready. 

"Once these internationals are over, I'll have plenty of time to go on holiday and decide my future then."

Bale inspired Wales to their first World Cup since 1958 with victory over Ukraine in last Sunday's play-off qualifying final, ending any talk of an early retirement.

That 64-year gap is the biggest between qualifications for a World Cup tournament of any nation in history, though there is uncertainty over who will be in charge of Wales in Qatar.

Rob Page has been in caretaker charge since Ryan Giggs stepped aside following his arrest on assault charges in November 2020, allegations which he denies.

Giggs' trial is due to be held in August, but Bale believes Page deserves to remain in the post.

"I think he is the long-term manager," Bale said. "I don't think there is any question in the changing room or from the fans.

"He's done an incredible job coming in in difficult circumstances. Everyone with him has a great relationship.

"We have that good mixture where we can have a bit of fun but, when we need to work, we work hard. We do it correctly. There's a great balance. He's been great for us."

Rob Page believes Wales can go "toe-to-toe with anybody" at the World Cup later this year after they secured qualification on Sunday.

Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 win for Wales in Cardiff as Page's men booked their spot at Qatar 2022 via the European playoff.

It meant Wales qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and will face England, the United States and Iran in Group B.

Page believes his side can head into the tournament with belief they can do more than just make up the numbers, having advanced from the group stage in both of the last two European Championships.

"We go with the confidence we have had going into any game," Page said, speaking to Radio Wales Breakfast.

"We have played against the USA. We know they are a really strong outfit.

"We played against their European-based players in my first game [0-0 in November 2020].

"[USA and Iran] are winnable games, and when you play against a home nations team, anything can happen.

"We will go toe to toe with anybody, bring it on. That's the attitude we have got in that changing room."

 

On the victory against Ukraine, Page added: "It's one of those surreal moments where you wake up and realise we are off to the World Cup. It is unbelievable.

"Even at the final whistle last night, I was thinking 'is this a cruel dream that I am having?' But then when you realise it's reality, coming back to the hotel and celebrating with the players last night, then waking up this morning and having that realisation again that we have done it.

"It's such a proud moment for the nation."

Wales have lost just once in their last 11 matches, a 2-1 defeat to Poland in the Nations League, and are currently ranked 18th in the FIFA world rankings, three places above Iran (21st), three places below the USA (15th) and 13 places below England (5th).

"It's a special moment for me personally and for my family," Page added.

"My mum and dad still live in the Rhondda. We are all going to enjoy it - we are supporters ourselves."

Gareth Bale described Wales' World Cup qualifying play-off final win over Ukraine as the "greatest result" in the national team's history.

Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 triumph for Wales, who were largely indebted to the heroics of Wayne Hennessey as Rob Page's team held on to book their spot at Qatar 2022.

It meant Wales qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and Bale, who will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the month, was in no doubt about the significance of the result.

"It's the greatest result in history for Welsh football," Bale told Sky Sports. "We are all ecstatic. The fans together, it was a delight, and we are going to a World Cup!

"It means everything. It's what dreams are made of. It's what we've been working for since we first came here. I'm so happy for all our amazing fans and our country. Words can't describe how we're feeling at the moment.

"It was difficult. I haven't done too much over the last four weeks because of my back spasm, which everyone knows about.

"Contributing in whatever way I could, but the most important thing was to get through it and get through to the World Cup.

"I gave my all on the pitch and I was running a bit on empty, it's always good to have players come off the bench and do a job."

 

Wales' victory means they will face England, the United States and Iran in Group B in Qatar.

And interim manager Page dedicated the Red Dragons' success to former boss Gary Speed, who died in 2011.

"I've said in the build-up, Gary Speed started this 12 or 13 years ago," he told a media conference. "I want to dedicate this to Gary. He started the culture, 12 years ago.

"There was a difference, there was a change. The environment completely changed. I've inherited that, Chris Coleman took it on and took it to another level, and I've inherited that group.

"We're confident going into games now. We don't hope to qualify for the World Cup or Euros now, we believe we can do it, so there's been a massive change in the mentality as well.

"I had a difficult decision tonight. I've got people like Harry Wilson and Brennan Johnson, who is going to be a superstar, isn't he? You've got people like him who didn't start tonight. But we had our best 11 on the pitch.

"It's encouraging, it's good, we're going in the right direction. We need to continue to develop these young players that we have done for the last few years, and it's only going to get better for us."

Wales boss Rob Page praised the Real Madrid fans for their "class" after greeting Gareth Bale with a standing ovation at their Champions League title celebrations.

Bale has endured a turbulent spell in the Spanish capital, despite scoring in three Champions League finals for Madrid and winning the competition with Los Blancos on five occasions.

The most recent of those came on Saturday in a 1-0 win over Liverpool, with Bale an unused substitute as Madrid lifted a 14th European Cup, which is more than double any other side.

The Wales international has been much maligned by Madrid fans during his time in Spain, as supporters and the Spanish media have questioned his commitment to the club.

However, Bale's appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu celebrations on Sunday was met with rapturous applause, signalling a fitting end as the 32-year-old prepares to move on when his contract expires in June.

Page expressed his gratitude to Madrid fans for that support after Bale linked up with Wales, who have the Nations League and a crucial World Cup qualifying play-off match to contend with in the next week.

"I thought they showed class and rightly so for what he's achieved for that football club," Page told reporters on Tuesday.

"You look back to what he's done, scoring winners in Champions League finals and in the manner in which he's done it.

"What an achievement for him personally to be a part of that group of people, that team that's achieved that, is phenomenal.

"Not many players can say they've done that, so credit to him. He deserves all the plaudits, absolutely. He's in good spirits as he always is.

"He was adamant he was meeting the players in Portugal to fly to Poland with them, which speaks volumes.

"He wanted to be with the squad as soon as possible. He's as humble as ever, he's met up with the group and he's been first class right away."

Wales face Poland in the Nations League on Wednesday before facing either Scotland or Ukraine for a place in the World Cup in Qatar.

Page suggested he will name a rotated side for the clash in Wroclaw, where Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Brennan Johnson will likely be rested, as Wales eye a first World Cup appearance since 1958.

"It's risk and reward," Page said on selection. "The biggest game we've got is on Sunday and that's no disrespect to Poland whatsoever.

"We're going to show them complete respect, but we'd be mad to jeopardise our top, top players."

Aaron Ramsey has the character to put his penalty miss in Rangers' Europa League final shoot-out defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt behind him, according to Wales boss Rob Page.

The on-loan Juventus midfielder, brought on in the second half of extra time, missed the only spot-kick as Frankfurt prevailed 5-4 in a game that finished level at 1-1 in Seville on Wednesday.

It marked the first time Rangers had tasted defeat on penalties in European competition since the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup when losing to Borussia Dortmund in the last 32.

Ramsey was visibly upset after Rafael Borre converted the decisive penalty for Frankfurt, who are the first German team to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League since Schalke in 1996-97.

But Page insists he has no worries about selecting the 31-year-old to take a penalty should Wales' upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine go the distance.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that if it comes to penalties that he will take one," Page said at a news conference on Thursday after naming his 27-man squad for that June 5 showdown in Cardiff.

Asked if he still has faith in Ramsey, Page said: "Absolutely, 100 per cent. It happens to the best in the world. Top players, they put themselves up.

"I am so proud of him for putting himself up [to take a penalty]. He is a world-class footballer. He had the courage and conviction to take a penalty. Top players recover from that, no problem."

Ramsey is part of Wales' latest squad, as is Gareth Bale, who will become a free agent when his Real Madrid contract expires in the coming weeks.

Bale's agent this week suggested a return to English football is the most likely option, with the forward aiming to keep fit ahead of November's World Cup should Wales qualify for the tournament for the first time in 64 years.

"I think everybody is probably thinking the same thing about his future," Page said. "It will depend on how results go with regards to what he does next season with a club.

"The only person who can answer that is Gareth. All I know is whenever he turns up for us he is first class. The full focus on himself is winning this game against Ukraine or Scotland, so he can worry about that after."

Bale has started just four games for Madrid in all competitions this season and has not been part of their matchday squad for any of their past five games because of a back problem.

The Wales skipper is back in training, however, and Page expects him to be part of Los Blancos' squad for next week's Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris.

"I think Gareth puts himself when he is fit to be available for Real Madrid like he does with us," Page said. "It is down to the manager then whether he wants to select him or not in the squad. 

"I think he is confident he will be involved and we will wait and see whether he is involved. We will then get him in camp as soon as we can."

Gareth Bale will "definitely" continue to play club football next season if Wales qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, says national team boss Rob Page.

Page also vehemently defended Bale against recent media criticism in Spain, saying he was angered by Marca's depiction of the Real Madrid winger as a "parasite" last month.

Bale's future has been called into question in recent weeks, with the 32-year-old making just four starts for Carlo Ancelotti's team in LaLiga this season and speculation abounding that the wideman could call time on his club career.

However, Wales' caretaker manager Page is certain the four-time Champions League winner would continue playing to fulfil his dream of featuring at a World Cup, should Wales qualify, although he was none the wiser as to where he would go when his Madrid contract expires in June.

"If we get to the World Cup in November, then he will definitely be playing football," Page told the Athletic. "The World Cup is his dream, the one thing missing from his CV. 

"Where he'll play, I'm not sure, whether he comes home, stays in Spain, fancies another challenge, I really don't know."

Bale netted twice in Wales' crucial 2-1 victory against Austria last month, including a stunning free-kick opener, to send the Dragons to June's play-off final in Cardiff.

If Wales beat either Scotland or Ukraine to secure a place in Qatar, they will make their first World Cup appearance since 1958, and would feature in the same group as rivals England.

Page was also asked about the Spanish media's coverage of Bale's Real Madrid career, saying he was left fuming by Marca depicting Bale as a "parasite" last month.

"I'm absolutely appalled by it," he added. "I know Gareth well now and a lot of people don't see what he does off the pitch, the donations he made to the NHS recently, to a hospital in Cardiff, a considerable amount of money.

"He doesn't get credit for that because he doesn't shout about it and people don’t hear about it. He keeps it to himself. 

"That parasite comment made my blood boil. I don't like that. 

"That's not the Gareth Bale who is the captain of our country, who represents us, and he never will be that."

Bale is the top goalscorer in the history of the Welsh national team, netting 38 times in his 102 senior caps to date. Only Chris Gunter, meanwhile, has made more appearances for Wales, winning five caps more than the Madrid winger.

Aaron Ramsey and Kieffer Moore insisted Wales will not fear facing any of their potential opponents on home soil in the World Cup play-offs for Qatar 2022.

Wales finished second in Group E to earn home advantage in March's play-offs after they fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Belgium on Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne had put Belgium ahead early in the game before Moore equalised just after the half hour.

Moore's goal was his eighth for Wales since making his international debut in September 2019 – more than any other Wales player in that time.

"It's so important to get a home draw," Moore told Sky Sports.

"If you look at the teams that have come in second, the likes of Portugal and Italy - it's been a bit nervy. But nights like this, I'd back us to take on anyone.

"We left everything out there. We gave everything for that performance because we knew we needed a result.

"The noise after that goal, it was just incredible. I can't explain it, I was lost for words. It's some feeling, I'll say that. The Red Wall [Wales fans] are amazing.

"We knew that Belgium would try and keep as much possession as much as possible so we knew we had to be compact, be tight and not let them through us so that we could get them on the counter-attack."

Wales have lost just two of their last 20 World Cup qualifying matches (won nine, drawn nine) and are unbeaten in their last seven heading into the play-offs next March.

They have also finished in the top two of a World Cup qualifying group for the first time since qualification for the 1966 World Cup, when they finished second (only the first-placed teams qualified that year).

Wales captain Ramsey hailed the willingness of his team-mates put their heads where it hurts against Belgium to clinch a play-off spot.

He added: "Full credit to the boys, they put in a massive shift again against top opposition.

"We always believed we could get a result, especially with our fans behind us. It's another good night for us.

"We build our foundations on everybody putting in a shift for each other, putting their bodies on the line, and we managed to do that again tonight.

"There's some big, big teams still in it but it was so important that we had a home tie. You could see the atmosphere tonight – it's a special place to come and play. Hopefully that will give us an extra edge in that first play-off."

Wales boss Robert Page acknowledged his side suffered from the absence of the injured Gareth Bale against Belgium, with hopes of reaching first World Cup since 1958 now tantalising within reach.

He said: "We're always going to miss Gareth but there's so much he brings to this team off the pitch too, just having him around the dressing room. He wanted to be with us tonight, he's a proper captain.

"When the crowd is behind us like it was tonight, we'll take on anyone. We're not done yet; we're dreaming of a World Cup but it's definitely achievable."

Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' crucial World Cup qualifying double-header next month with what boss Rob Page describes as a "significant hamstring tear".

The 32-year-old has not featured for club or country since sustaining the injury during a training session with Real Madrid three weeks ago.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti recently said he is unsure how long Bale will be out but there was hope he would be back in time for Wales' trips to the Czech Republic and Estonia.

However, Bale – who is one cap short of a milestone 100 for Wales – was left out of Page's squad on Tuesday and is also a doubt for his side's final three qualifiers in November.

"Hamstring injuries are graded from one to four and this is a four. It's a significant hamstring tear," Page said at a news conference.

"This camp has come too soon for him. He's not going to be involved, and that may also be the case progressing to November's camp."    

Bale started Madrid's opening three games of the season and featured in all three of Wales' matches last month, scoring a hat-trick in the 3-2 win away at Belarus.

That ended a 17-game drought without a goal for the Dragons – his second-longest such run – but he could not find a way through in the goalless draw with Estonia last time out.

Wales are third in Group E after four matches, one point behind next opponents the Czech Republic with a game in hand as the pair fight for second place behind runaway leaders Belgium.

Page's side will head into that clash in Prague without undisputed star player Bale, who has been involved in all five of his side's goals this campaign (three goals and two assists).

"He's been first class for Wales over the years, so of course it's a blow for myself and the supporters," Page said. "But it does give others a chance.

"We can't cry about it. Gareth showed his worth in the last camp and he was at another level.

"We've got new players coming through, and an abundance of players who can fill the position he plays. There aren't many Gareth Bales in the world but others will have a chance." 

 

Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey is back involved for Wales after withdrawing from the last squad through injury.

Ramsey has featured four times in Serie A this term and leads the way for passes per 90 minutes (67.71) and successful passes (61.71) among Juventus midfielders.

He has missed several key fixtures for Wales this campaign, but Page insists the former Arsenal man's commitment cannot be questioned.

"We're confident he'll be with us," Page said.

"I understand the fans' frustration because they want the best players turning up. He can put a shift in and did a full pre-season with Juventus.

"Players like him are prone to picking up injuries. He's managing his body better now and I think we're seeing the best of it.

"He's become more robust and shown over the summer he's more capable of playing games. His training will be adapted but we expect him to play both games."

Wales caretaker boss Rob Page insists Gareth Bale still has the hunger and desire to play for his country after including the player in his squad for the upcoming international break.

Page's side face Finland in a friendly on September 1, before resuming their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a double-header against Belarus and Estonia.

Speculation surrounded Bale's international future following the Dragons' exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of Denmark.

However, the Real Madrid forward, who has 96 caps to his name, could edge closer to becoming Wales' second centurion after being selected by Page.

Bale, who spent last season on loan at Tottenham, has started twice this season under new Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti, scoring in Sunday's 3-3 draw at Levante.

And Page is confident his talisman has "got the bug back" for football.

 

"It's great news. You want all your players playing competitive football when they come to the camp," Page told Sky Sports News.

"To get any of your players playing week in, week out is a bonus.

"But when you've got Gareth playing now and finding he's got the bug back again, which I saw in some of his performances for Tottenham at the back end of last season, is great news for us.

"He's got a hunger to play week in, week out for his club and he's got an absolute hunger and desire to play for Wales.

"As long as I can see that in his performances then there's going to be no issues whatsoever."

Gareth Bale is hopeful Wales can use their hard-fought 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their opening Euro 2020 match as a springboard to push on.

Kieffer Moore headed in 16 minutes from time to cancel out Breel Embolo's opener in Saturday's Group A clash at the Baku Olympic Stadium.

Switzerland managed double the number of shots than Wales and had a Mario Gavranovic goal ruled out by VAR late on, but Moore rescued the Dragons a potentially huge point.

Wales have now lost just one of their last 14 competitive games – against Belgium in March – and Bale is pleased with his side's attitude to battle back in the blistering Baku heat.

"Both teams tried to play. It was a little bit tense, but it's not a bad result and we take the positives," Bale told BBC Sport. "We wanted to win the game and had chances, but so did they.  

"When you go 1-0 down and you can crumble but we showed a lot of grit and character like always and we showed our class to fight back and get the goal.

"We worked very hard. It's hard in this heat. I'm proud of the boys. After the match we said we need to use this as a springboard.

"We now need to recover and move onto the next game."

That next game for Wales is once again in Baku against Turkey, who were beaten 3-0 against heavyweights Italy on Friday in the opening match of the tournament.

Like captain Bale, Wales' caretaker boss Rob Page believes his side can take confidence from the point gained against Switzerland.

"We wanted a positive start and it feels like a win in the changing room. We had to dig deep at the end and we had a bit of Lady Luck," he told BBC Sport.

"Turkey are a different opposition to what we've faced today, but we will have to be solid and well organised again.

"Italy have quality in abundance and we respect Turkey too. It's all about focusing on that now and we will be preparing for that test now.

"That's the foundations. If we need to dig in we will but we've proved we can play."

Moore's goal was his sixth for Wales in 18 appearances, four of those being scored with his head.

Page recalled the Cardiff City striker to his starting line-up in a big tactical decision that ultimately paid dividends.

"Kieffer has been terrific at international and club level," added Page.

"He's got a great touch and his link-up play is great. He's got all his attributes for a centre-forward and has given us the rewards today."

Switzerland are now unbeaten in their last six European Championship games in normal time, but Vladimir Petkovic's men had enough chances to pick up all three points against Wales.

Goalscorer Embolo, whose six shots was the most ever attempted by a Switzerland player in a single European Championship match, admits the draw is a disappointing result.

"I feel a bit of frustration as we had the chances for the second goal but didn't take them," he said.

"Perhaps we were too passive after the first goal. We deserved the win, but it turned out to be a draw and that's a pity.

"But we have to take the positives, rest up, focus on the next game and bring the good things from this match into the next one."

Wales captain Gareth Bale insists he is not distracted by uncertainty over his future and expects to return to Real Madrid at the end of the season as planned.

The 31-year-old rejoined Tottenham on a season-long loan from Madrid last September after falling out of favour at the Santiago Bernabeu under Zinedine Zidane.

Bale has had a mixed time of things since returning to north London, the forward having scored 10 goals and assisted three more in 25 appearances.

There had recently been talk of Bale staying on at Spurs after hitting form, but he was criticised by Jose Mourinho last week and played no part in Sunday's win at Aston Villa.

And with a year still to run on his Madrid contract, the forward believes he will be back in the Spanish capital after representing Wales at the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament.

"It's no distraction," he said at a news conference on Tuesday previewing Wales' opening World Cup 2022 qualifier against Belgium.

"The main reason I obviously came to Spurs was I wanted to play football, I wanted to be match fit. The original plan was only to do a season.

"After the Euros, I have a year left at Real Madrid. My plan is to go back."

Wales' preparations for Wednesday's clash with Belgium, the world's number one ranked nation, have been disrupted by a number of injury withdrawals.

Having already lost Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey from their initial 31-man squad, Tottenham's Ben Davies and fellow defender Tom Lockyer pulled out on Tuesday.

It is a big blow for Rob Page as he once again takes caretaker charge of Wales in the absence of Ryan Giggs, who remains under investigation due to an allegation of assault, which he denies.

"It's not great news for us, two defenders getting injured prior to camp," Page said. "We've assessed them and they're no good. It's not ideal preparation. We’ve got to react to that and pick a team that we think will win us the game.

"I think they're quite significant injuries. It's a shame. But we have to deal with it."

Page also took charge of Wales' three fixtures in November – a friendly draw against the United States, followed by Nations League wins against the Republic of Ireland and Finland.

Skipper Bale has been impressed by Page's work in the last two camps but is eager for the situation regarding Giggs to be resolved before the Euro 2020 finals.

"Pagey has done an incredible job. He's addressed the situation amazingly well and kept the consistency," Bale said.  "There are no excuses. We've had another good couple of days and we're fully focused. We're ready to go.

"I think my influence has been the same. We're just trying to keep it the same. Nothing has changed. Going into the Euros, ideally things are sorted, but we understand the situation. The FAW [Football Association of Wales] will be in charge of that, not the players."

Asked about his fitness, having been benched against Dinamo Zagreb and not used at all versus Villa three days later, Bale said: "I didn't play Sunday but I've had a couple of days' training. 

"It's been a quick turnaround. Same for every country. Everyone is in the same boat – we're ready to go.

"It's probably the most match fitness I've had. I'm feeling fresh and ready to go."

Wales have won their opening group match in just five of their 18 World Cup qualifying campaigns, although they have done so in two of the previous three.

The Dragons are unbeaten in four games against Belgium, famously beating their next opponents 3-1 in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

But Belgium enter the match in Leuven in great form, winning 23 of their past 24 qualifying matches since going down 1-0 to Wales in June 2015, and Bale is predicting a tough opening Group E test.

"We know Belgium is a great team and we know we're going to be the underdogs," he said. "But you don't need to be the best team to win a game.

"This is why football is so great. What we showed that night [at Euro 2016] was more heart, desire, belief. When we pull on the Welsh shirt, we believe we have more passion than anyone.

"I think beating a big nation in a qualifier gives us confidence to grow. When you enjoy winning, it breeds more."

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