Gareth Bale to receive fan farewell as Wales chase Latvia qualifying victory
GARETH Bale will receive a farewell from Wales fans at the Euro 2024 qualifier against Latvia in Cardiff on Tuesday.
Former captain Bale retired from football in January after making 111 appearances and scoring 41 goals – both records for the team – during a remarkable 16-year international career.
The 33-year-old former Real Madrid played his final game at the World Cup in November and will arrive in Cardiff from his Los Angeles home before kick-off.
There will be a pitchside presentation ahead of the game with Bale expected to say a few words to Wales supporters.
“@Gareth Bale11 will be at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow night,” the Football Association of Wales said on their official Twitter account on Monday.
“There will be an opportunity pre-match for The Red Wall (Wales fans) to show their appreciation to a Cymru legend.”
Bale’s return comes with sold-out signs ready to go up at the Cardiff City Stadium after Wales’ opening Euro qualifier, a 1-1 draw in Croatia.
Substitute Nathan Broadhead’s debut goal deep into stoppage time has handed the team a massive boost ahead of taking on Latvia, 133rd in the FIFA world rankings and 105 places below Wales.
Manager Rob Page said: “We’ve sold 32,000 tickets and it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere.
“Croatia is the reference point for us. We went to a great team in Croatia and not many people get a result there, and we did it with a not-full squad.
“It was a tough start going away from home and we can build on that.
“But we have to earn the right to play and use the ball really well and when we get chances we need to be ruthless.
“We will need to be patient and try and nullify their threat.”
Wales, again without injured pair Ben Davies and Brennan Johnson, are expected to be unchanged from the side that held the World Cup semi-finalists in Split.
As well as Broadhead, Birmingham midfielder Jordan James made his first appearance and there were four other uncapped players on the bench.
Fulham’s Luke Harris was given Bale’s number 11 jersey and, although the highly-rated teenager did not get on the pitch in Split, Page said “Watch this space” when asked if there would be more debuts on Tuesday.
Skipper Aaron Ramsey, Daniel James and Harry Wilson were all protected with Page withdrawing the trio after 64 minutes against Croatia.
Page admitted after the draw that the changes was pre-planned and made with the Latvia game in mind.
“Latvia is going to be a tough game for different reasons,” Page said.
“We don’t fact the threats we had against Croatia, it will be a different type of game.
“We are already looking at all eight fixtures and that was a bonus point for us.
“Croatia will hopefully react now and get a result against Turkey (on Tuesday).
“We’ve got to look to get the three points. Four points from the first two games would be a good start.”