Gareth Bale has promised never to quit Wales as long as he is playing football.
Bale walked out on a TV interview when he was asked about his future moments after Wales exited Euro 2020 with a 4-0 round-of-16 defeat to Denmark in Amsterdam.
There was speculation in the build-up to the tournament that the 31-year-old Real Madrid forward may be contemplating retirement. Bale said at the end of his Tottenham loan spell last month that he knows where his future lies after this summer, but claimed it would “cause chaos” if he revealed it.
Wales have started their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign and the finals in Qatar are only 17 months away. Bale – who is four appearances short of becoming only the second Welshman to win 100 caps – suggested after the Denmark defeat that he wants to prolong his international career.
“I want to continue to play,” Bale told S4C shortly after terminating a previous interview when asked about his international future.
“People ask stupid questions all the time but I obviously love playing for Wales. I will play for Wales until the day that I stop playing football.”
Phil Blanche, PA
Having slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Denmark in Amsterdam yesterday, Wales are out of the tournament.
While Denmark were excellent, Wales were well below their best. Despite making a bright start to the game they were downed by a brace from Kasper Dolberg and late goals from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite, the last of which came after Harry Wilson’s soft sending-off.
Speaking after the match, Wales boss Rob Page lamented a cruel end to his side’s Euro 2020 campaign. “I’m really disappointed to end in the manner that we have done,” he said. “The lads don’t deserve that, they don’t deserve to end the tournament in that way.
“To get to the competition itself was a great achievement for this group of players. To get out of the group was an even bigger achievement.
“Like I said, they’re a great group and they don’t deserve to leave the tournament in that manner.”
Mancini says Austria test ‘can do us good’
Speaking to RAI Sport after the match, Mancini suggested that beating Austria will stand Italy in good stead for the quarter-finals.
“We brought it home because we deserved it, even though we conceded on a corner and had to let one in sooner or later,” he said.
“We frankly should’ve scored the two goals a lot earlier and not gone to extra time, and we got tired as it wore on, but we won deservedly.
“The players who came off the bench had the right mentality and stepped straight into the match to change the game. Those who came on were extraordinary after those who came off had already given everything they had.
“I knew this was going to be tough, probably tougher than the quarter-final. Games can take the wrong bent, but we played well and deserved it. This test can do us good, we had to show a strong mentality.”
Asked whether he’d prefer to face Portugal or Belgium in the quarters, Mancini added: “They are two extraordinary teams, so it’s difficult to choose.”
Mancini style tips
If you’re looking for a lighter read, we’ve got just the thing.
Here’s Jim White on Mancini’s impeccable dress sense, effortless cool and semi-suave ball skills.
Righting past wrongs
Want to read about Mancini’s troubled backstory with Italy as a player and his personal quest for redemption with the national team?
Here’s James Ducker with some intriguing insight into Mancini’s motivations.
After the game, Mancini tweeted: “We wanted it, we won it and now let’s all embrace each other!”
It’s hard to overstate the feelgood factor in Italy’s success at Euro 2020 so far. They are now 31 games unbeaten under Mancini’s management, setting a new national record. Ahead of Kalajdzic’s header deep into extra time, they had broken another record by going 1,168 minutes without conceding a goal.
For all those in Rome who slept through the sound of car horns and scooter parps last night, well, congratulations.
Scenes in Rome
… last night as the final whistle went.
Will there be more jubilation in the Eternal City after the quarter-finals? Or heartbreaking images of a man draped in il Tricolore slumped solemnly in a piazza somewhere? Major tournaments only ever end one of two ways for the Italians.
Party time in Italy
… with celebrations carrying on into the early hours of the morning after their last-16 victory against Austria last night.
The Azzurri won in extra time thanks to goals from Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina and, despite a late header from Sasa Kalajdzic which made them sweat, they held firm to book their place in the quarter-finals.
They will now face either Belgium or Portugal, so Roberto Mancini and co will be watching tonight’s game with interest.
Until then, though, it’s time to enjoy a bit of calcio revivalism. Viva l’Italia!
The Netherlands take on the Czech Republic in today’s 5pm kick off, with the game taking place at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest.
Then, at 8pm, Belgium play Portugal at the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville. Not a bad evening of football, all told.
Lukaku out to beat his idol again
It took five years and six attempts but Romelu Lukaku finally managed a first win over Cristiano Ronaldo last season.
It was a moment to savour for Lukaku at the San Siro after winning against one of his idols. He was trying to take the Scudetto from the Juventus forward but there was a deep-rooted appreciation for him, to the point where he would argue his case when debating Messi vs Ronaldo among friends.
Lukaku is no different to the other strikers at the top of Europe’s goalscoring charts, preoccupied with who the real deal is. One phrase that pops up is a “stat-padder”, borrowed from American sport, where a player boosts his statistics with goals that have little meaning in games.
Ronaldo is no stat-padder. The big performances, the important goals on the highest stage. Consolation penalties mean little to him.
It is this standard that Lukaku wants to be measured by in a career where questions have been asked about whether he belongs in the top bracket of strikers. His confidence has fluctuated but he heads into today’s Euro last-16 clash against Portugal and Ronaldo as a player with a healthy arrogance about where his game is.
Ronaldo will start the tie at La Cartuja in Seville needing one goal to overtake Ali Daei and become the leading international goalscorer of all time, with Lukaku among the few players with any chance of eventually catching him.
In fact, Lukaku’s record compares favourably with 63 goals from 96 caps. Ronaldo had netted 36 after the same number of internationals, although his goalscoring rate since has been superhuman.
Despite being Belgium’s record scorer, Lukaku has endured an uneasy relationship with supporters. He has been jeered for bad misses and articulated his frustration before the last World Cup, when asked about his brother’s comments about the country’s most prolific player not receiving the credit he deserves. “Maybe he is right,” said Lukaku.
“When things were going well, I was reading newspaper articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker,” he wrote in the Players’ Tribune. “When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.”
By Mike McGrath