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Gareth Bale reacts with Wales captain on cusp of record cap against Iran

Gareth Bale wants to become the most capped men’s player in Welsh football history “even more special”, leading Wales to a World Cup victory over Iran.

Bale is expected to overtake Chris Gunter, who will be among the substitutes for Friday’s game, to earn his 110th cap at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha.

Wales were boosted by the return to fitness of midfielder Joe Allen, who has been sidelined since mid-September with a hamstring injury.

Bale, who made his debut for Wales in 2006 and is his country’s top scorer with 41 goals, said: “To be honest I haven’t been concentrating too much on the edge, just trying to concentrate on the game.

“On a personal level it is an incredible achievement, it is an honor to represent my country so many times. But it is more important that we try to win. I hope we can and that will make it even more special.”

Bale played the entire match against the USA who, like so many in this tournament, went over 100 minutes due to stoppages and substitutions.

The 33-year-old said in the month leading up to the World Cup that he was dealing with “a few minor issues” and played just 30 minutes before his US opener.

But Wales manager Robert Page, asked in his own pre-match press conference about the possibility of resting Bale against Iran, said: “Good luck not picking him.”

Page insisted that Bale is ready for Wales’ second game of the group stage, even if the player himself admitted that such an exhausting match to open was not ideal given the quick turnaround in games.

Gareth Bale will become Wales’ most capped player as he earns his 110th cap on Friday night

(Getty Images)

Bale said: “I’m feeling good, obviously it took a few days before I could feel my legs again. But we are professionals, we try to bounce back and do the best we can. Playing 104 minutes, or whatever it is, is not ideal when you have a game four days later.

“Everyone is doing what they can to recover for the next game. I didn’t play a lot before coming here, but I’ve dealt with it before and it won’t be a problem.”

Wales are confident of handling the early afternoon heat in Doha, with the temperature expected to be around 29 degrees Celsius when the game kicks off at 1pm local time.

Training has been improved over the last few days, with Wales starting earlier to acclimatize to the hot conditions.

More games for Wales

Gareth Bale – 109 games

Chris Gunter – 109

Wayne Hennessey – 107

Neville Southall – 92

Ashley Williams – 86

Bale said: “It’s hot, not too hot. Training is different from a game because the intensity is different. We have a plan like nutrition and hydration squad. As long as we can do that, it will put us in a better position to deal with the heat and humidity.”

Page has a full roster to choose from after Allen, who began training with the core group on Wednesday, was approved.

“Joe passed the fitness test, which is good news. He’s fit and eager to play,” said Page, who is expected to give Kieffer Moore a starting spot after the striker came off the bench to revive Wales against the USA.

“We were all worried about him because of the extent of his injury.

“It kept breaking. We had milestones to meet along the way and they met all the targets. Last week they pushed it to 100%. It was a gamble. If he had broken, he would have been completely out of the tournament.”

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org