After claiming “bragging rights” over England, Wales star Gareth Bale said on Thursday that he was savouring the prospect of a new ‘battle of Britain’ against Northern Ireland at the European Championship finals.
Wales stole a march over England by finishing top of Group B despite losing the clash between the two, and Bale was clearly delighted.
“It is a moral victory for us. It gives you bragging rights to finish top. It is always nice to get one over on the English,” he said.
Bale had riled England with his comments before their Euro game. But England won the match 2-1.
Wales start Saturday’s game against Northern Ireland as heavy favourites, but Bale is not using the same pre-match mind games as with England.
“We know each and every game is as important as the last. It’s a cliche but we’ll take each one as it comes,” Bale said toning down his comments when talking about Wales prospects at Euro 2016.
“Yes we would love to win it, but all our focus now is on Northern Ireland.”
Winning Group B means Chris Coleman’s men will not have to face Germany, Italy, Spain, France or England unless they get to the July 10 final.
And Welsh supporters are dreaming of getting to the Stade de France in a campaign that would match the wins of Denmark and Greece in the 1992 and 2004 tournaments.
“Obviously you come to the tournament for one reason: to win,” said the 26-year-old forward who is level with Spain’s Alvaro Morata in the top scorer race. Both have three goals.
“You do not come out here to play three games and go home. The ultimate goal is we want to try and win the tournament.”
Bale said: “It is up to others to decide if we are favourites. We just concentrate on ourselves. The tag doesn’t matter to us. We all know what we have to do and we’ll go out to win the game.”
“Until that whistle goes and we’re through, we can’t think about what may be ahead for a second before.”
Wales and Northern Ireland are competing at their first Euro finals and their places in the last 16 are already a cause for celebration.
The two drew 1-1 in Cardiff in a friendly in March that Bale missed through injury.
And the Real Madrid ace can see the qualities in Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland team.
“They topped their group in qualifying, you don’t do that by mistake,” he said.
“They have a very similar team spirit to us. They are a bit more defensive than us. It will be difficult to break them down but we will try our best.”
“At this stage no matter who you get it is not going to be an easy game.”
“We know more about Northern Ireland than Albania or Turkey and obviously we are happy with the draw.”
“It is a difficult game but one we can win, we will concentrate on ourselves as we usually do and take it from there.”