Gareth Bale says Turkish support will spur on Wales players in Baku

Wales captain Gareth Bale (AP)
18:06pm, Tue 15 Jun 2021
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Gareth Bale insists Wales will be spurred on by partisan Turkish support at their second game of Euro 2020.

Around 34,000 are expected at Baku’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, with Turkey able to count on the vast majority of support inside the arena.

Thousands of Turkey fans will be in Baku for the crunch Group A game, including Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while only a few hundred Wales supporters will be present.

Azerbaijan Wales Euro 2020 Soccer (AP)

Azerbaijan’s close cultural, diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey also means the local population are supporting Wales’ opponents at a stadium that will be nearly half-full to its 69,870 capacity.

“I think it’s good to be playing in front of big crowds,” Wales captain Bale said after a year when stadiums have mostly been empty because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will be nice to have that atmosphere at the stadium and get back to a bit of normality.

“Obviously we’d prefer to be playing in front of 34,000 Wales fans, but it’s not meant to be.

It will be nice to have that atmosphere at the stadium and get back to a bit of normality

“If anything it kind of spurs us on to be a bit more ruthless on the pitch, and hopefully we can keep them silent.”

Turkish fans are among the most passionate in the world with the big three Istanbul clubs – Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray – known for their vocal and colourful support.

Bale has played in Turkey for Real Madrid and said: “Whenever I’ve played there before the atmosphere has been incredible.

“We’ll feel like the away team in an away stadium and you know you’re going to get a bit more abuse.

Turkey v Republic of Ireland – International Friendly – Antalya Stadium (PA Archive)

“But all us footballers have dealt with it in the past, it’s the normal, and you enjoy it.

“You feed off the atmosphere. Of course they’re not saying great things, but I guess you want to silence them.

“It gives you bit more motivation if we needed anymore. It’s the atmosphere we enjoy the most, and that’s what makes football so good.”

Both sides are in need of points to make the knockout stages after failing to win their opening games.

Wales drew 1-1 with Switzerland while Turkey were beaten 3-0 by group favourites Italy.

Much will rest on the shoulders of Bale, who was not at his best against Switzerland and has failed to add to his record 33 Wales goals since October 2019.

But the 31-year-old insists that if Wales are to progress out of the group it will be the result of team effort and not down to one individual.

Bale said: “Of course I have the experience of playing in big games and hostile games.

“But it’s not about me stepping up, it’s about the team stepping up.

“Everyone always go on about individual performances – individual this and that, who scores and who does what.

“But the most important thing is we work hard collectively as a team, we attack and we deliver together.

“I’ve said it all through my Wales career, whether I’m scoring or not, that it doesn’t matter who scores.

“Everyone’s too driven by this individual performance thing when you can’t do anything without your team-mates. We’re just purely focused on doing everything as a team together.”

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