Wales targeting top spot in qualifying group – Bale

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Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is Wales’ all-time leading scorer with 36 goals from 98 appearances
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Wednesday, 8 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, plus live text and score updates on the BBC Sport website and app. Highlights on Match of the Day Wales on BBC One Wales from 22:35 BST.

Gareth Bale says Wales believe they can topple the world’s highest-ranked team Belgium and qualify for their first World Cup since 1958.

Belgium are top of Group E, seven points clear of third-placed Wales, but have played two games more.

Victory over Estonia on Wednesday would see Wales leapfrog the Czech Republic into second, but Bale insists they will not settle for a play-off spot.

“We’re just fully focused on trying to win the group,” he said.

“If we win every game, we qualify. It’s still in our hands, but there’s a long way to go and we have to take each game as it comes.

“We can’t look two months down the line. We need to focus on the next game, which is Estonia, hopefully get three points and move on to the next one.

“I know it’s a cliche and everyone says it, but we can’t look past that because against Belarus everyone was expecting us to win and it turned out to be one of the hardest games.”

Bale completed a match-winning hat-trick deep in injury time to give Wales a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over Belarus in Russia on Sunday.

Dropping points against such lowly opposition could have proved terminal to Wales’ hopes of qualifying automatically for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Only the group winners qualify outright, while the runners-up enter the play-offs.

Welsh aspirations of topping the group may seem fanciful to some, with Euro 2020 and 2018 World Cup semi-finalists Belgium winning four and drawing one of their five games to date – and racking up 20 goals.

But Wales have defied the odds to beat Belgium before, notably in 2015 during qualifying for Euro 2016, and then at the tournament itself, where a glorious 3-1 quarter-final triumph took them to the first major semi-final in their history.

Having played a key role in those successes, Bale has earmarked World Cup qualification as his biggest remaining ambition with Wales.

“I believe there’s still more to achieve otherwise I wouldn’t be playing,” the 32-year-old Real Madrid forward said.

“I think we have the mindset of trying to qualify for the World Cup.

“We know it’s going to be very difficult to win the group or even if we get a play-off to qualify, but we believe in ourselves.

“We believe on our day we can beat any team, even when we maybe aren’t performing so well.

“We all stick together, try and pull through and try and get that result, which we proved the other night.

“It (the World Cup) is something every player dreams of playing in and qualifying for and I’m no different – and neither is anyone else in the squad.”

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