Joe Rodon backs Gareth Bale to be at full speed as Wales aim to reach World Cup

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Joe Rodon has backed Gareth Bale to be at full speed as Wales attempt to end a 64-year wait to play at the World Cup.

Bale heads into Sunday’s play-off decider against Ukraine in Cardiff having played just 30 minutes of football since scoring twice in the semi-final win over Austria on March 24.

The 32-year-old was a peripheral figure during his final season at Real Madrid, making seven appearances in an injury-hit campaign and scoring just once.

Wales Training Session – Stadio Olimpico – Saturday June 19th
Gareth Bale (right) and Joe Rodon (left) have been team-mates for club and country (Marco Iacobucci/PA)

But Rodon, a Tottenham team-mate of Bale’s in the 2020-21 season when the Wales captain made a loan switch from Real, said: “Gareth has obviously been in the game way longer than me.

“He knows what he needs for his body and how he needs to keep himself ticking over and in condition for the games.”

Rodon has also struggled for game-time at club level, making only five Spurs starts in the season just finished and none in the Premier League.

But, like Bale, he excelled against Austria when snuffing out the threat of Marko Arnautovic and has shown he is capable of raising his game on the international stage.

“It’s the same with me,” Rodon said about his own lack of minutes at club level.

“It’s important that when things aren’t going the way you want them to go – and you’re not playing – then you have to be professional and keep yourself in condition.

“I feel that even though I haven’t been playing, I have kept my head down and not cried about it.

“At Spurs we train very hard – probably harder than most – and to be fair, I can’t thank the staff enough because they keep those who aren’t involved in very good shape.

“I have worked really hard all season. I feel that has served me well when I go into these Wales camps.”

Manager Robert Page has described the Ukraine game as the biggest in Welsh history since 1958.

Wales won a play-off against Israel on that occasion to qualify for their one and only World Cup in Sweden, where they made the quarter-finals before losing to eventual winners Brazil.

“As a kid, I always used to watch the DVD of the 2002 World Cup,” Rodon said.

“To be part of that – and for a country that hasn’t been there since 1958 – it would just be a dream come true.

Poland v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Wroclaw Stadium
Manager Robert Page has described the World Cup play-off final with Ukraine as Wales’ biggest game since 1958 (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

“We’ve not really spoken about it (the history) as we can’t really look too far ahead because the job is not done.

“But what happened with Denmark last year (Wales lost 4-0 in the last 16 of the European Championship) motivates me and should motivate the group as well.

“We want to learn from that. Sunday is a chance to do that and we’re going to give everything.”

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