Gareth Bale wins 100th cap as ruthless Wales put Belarus to the sword 

Gareth Bale marked his 100th cap as Wales beat Belarus 5-1
Gareth Bale marked his 100th cap as Wales beat Belarus 5-1

Welsh football is gradually coming of age and no one can deny how impressive the team has been, especially in the last five years.

The Dragons qualified for the European Championships for the first time in 2016 and went all the way to the semi-finals. They once again qualified for the 2020 edition, which they exited at the Round of 16 stage.

Rob Page and his side are currently on a mission to qualify for a third straight tournament with the 2022 World Cup in focus. For a country that loves football to a fault, it’s surprising that Wales have not played at the World Cup since 1958.

It’s been 63 years since the Dragons appeared at the quadrennial showpiece. But the current crop of players took a major step towards qualifying after beating Belarus 5-1 on Saturday evening.

Wales eye second position in group

There is no doubt that Wales in recent years have lacked a squad as talented as the one currently being managed by Page. Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Daniel James are all part of a rare golden generation.

The good thing is that these players are delivering for their country. Having qualified for back-to-back Euros, Wales are now guaranteed a spot in the play-offs of the World Cup qualifiers.

Saturday’s 5-1 win over Belarus had goals coming from Ramsey (double), Neco Williams, Ben Davies and Connor Roberts. With that performance, Wales will now vie for the runner-up spot in Group E along with Czech Republic.

Finishing in the top two is crucial to get a seeding for the playoff semifinals as well as a home tie. The Dragons need to avoid defeat against Belgium in their ultimate group game to clinch the second position.

Gareth Bale adds another feather to his cap

Not many players can boast of the career that Gareth Bale has had. The Welsh winger has won it all at club level, with his four UEFA Champions League titles standing out.

On Saturday, he added another feather to his hat when he won his 100th cap for his country. The last few years have been very testing for the Real Madrid star, yet he has never turned his back on Wales.

He played 45 minutes against Belarus but still made a telling contribution after setting up Williams for Wales’ second goal.

"I felt good, I need to get match fitness which doesn't come easy, 45 minutes we felt was enough and we were in control," Bale said after the game, as quoted by Marca. "I was just going to play 45 and we always planned if we were two up, we didn't need to risk another 15 minutes."

It has been a fulfilling international career for Bale, who joins just a select group of players to have played 100 matches for their countries. The 32-year-old will now be aiming to bow out with a World Cup appearance on his CV and that is certainly not beyond this talented Wales team.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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