LAFC hero Bale admits pre-World Cup injury concerns

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Los Angeles FC's MLS Cup hero Gareth Bale admitted it has been "mentally difficult" to maintain focus ahead of the World Cup.

The tournament starts in Qatar on November 20, with Bale set to lead Wales out in only their second appearance at the tournament.

Bale left Real Madrid to join LAFC on a free transfer midway through the 2022 MLS season in July, though has managed just two starts for the team, accumulating only 370 minutes on the pitch.

The 33-year-old was LAFC's hero on Saturday, however, as he came on from the bench to score an extra-time equaliser to make it 3-3 in the MLS Cup against Philadelphia Union and, despite Steve Cherundolo's side having had goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau sent off, they went on to win on penalties.

Bale's full attention can now turn to being fit to feature for Wales in their first World Cup match – coincidentally against the United States – on November 21, with England and Iran also in their group, though the former Tottenham and Madrid star acknowledged it has been tough to shirk off fitness concerns prior to the tournament.

"I'm feeling better and better as time goes on. I've had a few setbacks, a slight knock a few weeks ago that kept me out for 10 days," Bale said in a press conference.

"It's been difficult mentally, leading into the World Cup – you see so many players dropping out, missing the World Cup.

"So it has been difficult mentally, I'm sure it has been for a lot of players, leading into this World Cup, so for sure it's been in the back of my mind trying to make sure I'm a 100 per cent fit.

"I felt good enough to come on and help the team, and happy to see us lift the trophy."

Asked if he was fully fit, Bale said: "I'm not 100 per cent at the moment, still coming back, have a few little issues like most players do, but we spoke about, that if I was needed for the last 20, 30 minutes, then I'm available.

"I was able to come on and give as much as I can, glad I came up with the goal. That's what I'm here to do, I guess."

Bale's goal against Philadelphia – a brilliant header in the eighth minute of stoppage time at the end of extra-time – was his third for LAFC, though his first since August.

"It's been a difficult transition, trying to catch up, it's been difficult, especially with relocating with my family," Bale added.

"I've tried to stay as fit as I can, to help the team on and off the pitch, it's all worth it when you have moments like today. The most important thing was the target to win the MLS Cup, we've done that."