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Bale - It's our time to shine

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Gareth Bale all smiles. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gareth Bale all smiles. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gareth Bale all smiles. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gareth Bale has branded Wales' Euro 2016 quarter-final clash with Belgium as the country's biggest game in more than 50 years.

Chris Coleman's side, in their first major tournament since 1958, take on highly-fancied Belgium for a place in the last four.

Bale, who has scored three goals in their four games so far, said the game was Wales' biggest since losing to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup.

He said: "We know about the quarter-final in the World Cup in '58, so since then it's obviously the biggest game in Welsh football for sure.

"It's one we're looking forward to and eager to get started. We just want to enjoy the occasion, take it all in and hopefully get into the semis."

The fitness of captain Ashley Williams had been a doubt following a shoulder problem suffered in the last round, but the defender took part in training to ease further concerns.

Bale added: "Ashley took part in most of training today, so I think he's okay."

The Real Madrid forward has been at the forefront on and off the pitch for Coleman's side in France and was clearly delighted to see Wales progress further than the likes of England and Northern Ireland, whom they beat in the last 16.

He said: "It's our time to shine. We're the only home nation left in the competition which is an amazing achievement in itself.

"The game against Northern Ireland was a very ugly game that was not suited to us, but to play badly and win shows the team spirit and character we have at the moment.

"We're very happy and very proud and will be flying the Wales flag high."

Neil Taylor has warned Belgium that Wales can hurt them just like they did in Cardiff a year ago.

Wales have won one, drawn two and lost one of those four previous games - no mean feat against opponents ranked second in the world - and were victorious in their most recent meeting in June 2015 when Gareth Bale's first-half goal decided a Euro 2016 qualifier.

"On paper they are an unbelievable team," said Wales defender Taylor ahead of tomorrow's last-eight clash in Lille.

"They could put two teams out who are able to compete at these Euros, they have had a blessed generation of players coming through.

"Teams like that can force you to be defensive.

"They move the ball so well, the type of players they have got, you have to respect them otherwise they can blow you away completely. You have to show them respect they have earned from being good players and a good team, but we also know that we can hurt them.

"We have got our ways of hurting teams when we need to do but, first and foremost, we must try not to concede."

Wales are unbeaten in their last three games against Belgium having also twice drawn in Brussels. And Taylor says Belgium played an unwitting role in the Wales' success story.

Wales had missed out on yet another finals after a disappointing campaign when they headed to Brussels for their final 2014 World Cup qualifier.

Belgium, however, were celebrating qualification for the World Cup in Brazil the following summer and the 90 minutes was little more than a warm-up for the post-match party.

"We saw their celebrations and we talked in the changing room after," said Taylor.

"We said that is exactly what we want, what they have just had out there. We were thinking that is a nation that was expected to qualify as well and look at the euphoria around it.

"It was our aim to get there like Belgium, now our aim is to be at the next tournament and the tournament after that."

Belgium will have huge support at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, with Lille just a few miles from the Belgian border. But Taylor says the bond between Wales players and supporters gives them hope of causing an upset.

"We have really fed off each other which has been great," said Taylor. "We are happy for them to see what we are doing (on social media) because we feel that we are at one with our fans."


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