Gareth Bale wants to make being the greatest player in Welsh football history “even more special” by leading Wales to a World Cup victory over Iran.
Bale is expected to overtake Chris Gunter, who will be one of the substitutes in Friday’s match, to win his 110th match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha.
Wales have been boosted by the return to fitness of midfielder Joe Allen, who has been out from a hamstring injury since mid-September, as they enter must-win territory after Monday’s 1-1 draw with the United States.
Bale, who made his debut for Wales in 2006 and holds his country’s record with 41 goals, said: “Honestly, I wasn’t focusing on the cap, I was just trying to focus on the game.
“On a personal level, it’s an amazing achievement, it’s an honor to represent my country so many times. But it’s more important that we try to win. I hope we can do that and make it even more special.”
Bale played the entire match against the United States which, like many people in that tournament, went over 100 minutes due to stoppages and substitutions.
The 33-year-old said in the month leading up to the World Cup he had been dealing with “a few small issues” and only played football 30 minutes before the US opening.
But Wales manager Robert Page, when asked in his own pre-match press conference about the possibility of Bale’s rest against Iran, said: “Good luck not picking him.”
Page insisted Bale was ready for Wales’ second group match, even as the player himself admitted that such an energy-intensive opening match was not ideal due to the rapid turnaround.
Bale said: “I feel fine, of course it took a few days before I could feel my legs again. But we’re professionals, we’re trying to recover and we’re doing our best. Playing 104 minutes or whatever it was is not ideal when you have a match four days later.
“Everyone is doing everything they can to recover for the next game. I didn’t play much before I came here, but I’ve dealt with it before and it won’t be a problem.
Wales are confident they can handle the early afternoon heat in Doha with temperatures expected to be around 29C when the match kicks off at 1pm local time.
Training has been modified in recent days, with Wales starting early to acclimate to the hot conditions.
Bale said: “It’s warm, it’s not crazy warm. Training is different from a match because the intensity is different. As a team, we have a nutrition and hydration plan. As long as we can do that, we’ll be in a better position to deal with the heat and humidity.”
Page has a full roster to choose from after Allen, who started training with the main group on Wednesday, was declared fit.
“Joe passed the fitness test, so that’s good news. He is fit and ready to play,” said Page, who is expected to give Kieffer Moore a starting spot after the striker came off the bench and sparked Wales’ resurgence against the US.
“We were all worried about him because of the extent of his injury.
“It kept breaking down. We had to meet goals along the way, and they accomplished every goal. Last week they pushed him 100 percent. It was a gamble. If he had collapsed, he would have been out of the tournament altogether.”