Gareth Bale says Wales’ march to the semifinals of Euro 2016 has ended the years of “abuse” he has had to endure from club teammates.
Real Madrid forward Bale is usually on his summer holidays when major tournaments are held, but not this time with Wales playing Portugal on Wednesday for a place in the final of Euro 2016.
And Bale admits he hopes if Wales do get through then it is Germany, and not their last-four opponents France, who are waiting for them in the Paris final on Sunday.
“I remember [Real Madrid teammate] Toni Kroos saying we’d only have three games here,” said Bale. “So it would be nice to meet him in the final.
“It was a good laugh and a joke — a bit of banter — but I’ve had a lot of abuse over the years.
“When we used to lose and we were 100th in the world, people would say ‘you have nine weeks holiday instead of two.’
“So it’s great to finally be in a major tournament actually doing great things with our national team.”
Chris Coleman’s team have already gone further in a major tournament than any other Wales side in history.
The 3-1 victory over Belgium eclipsed the achievement of the 1958 side, who reached the quarterfinal of the World Cup in Sweden.
But Bale stressed there was always belief in the squad that they could cause a huge upset in France this summer.
“We’ve obviously exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, we understand that,” said Bale.
“But we always believed we could go all the way — you see the fairytale of Greece and Denmark in the past and you think why can’t we do it?
“We grew as a team in qualifying and we’ve just grown more throughout the tournament.
“The England game we learned from our mistakes of not passing the ball.
“When we’ve had to win ugly we’ve won ugly, and when we’ve had to play football we’ve played football.”