Gareth Bale stunner helps Wales dream of World Cup


Gareth Bale scored a stunning freekick and added another goal to lead Wales past Austria in the World Cup playoffs at Cardiff.

Wales is dreaming of a first World Cup finals appearance in 64 years.

The 32-year-old struck home a precision free kick in the 25th minute to open the scoring. Gareth Bale followed it up with another strike in the 51st minute to propel his team to a playoff final at home to either Scotland or Ukraine in June.

A deflected shot from Marcel Sabitzer in the 64th minute offered Austria hope of a comeback as a wasteful Wales endured a nervy finish but the home side held on for a deserved win.

The fervent atmosphere helped Wales start the game at a blistering pace. With only 80 seconds gone, Connor Roberts dispossessed Austria captain David Alaba and combined with Aaron Ramsey to set up Daniel James for a shot that was saved by Heinz Lindner.

Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner sent the warning signs to Wales when he hit the crossbar in the fifth minute.

Wales were rewarded for their attacking approach midway through the first half when Bale curled a direct free-kick from 25 yards out with pinpoint accuracy which dipped just enough to clip the bar on its way into the net. 

He would have to wait till the 51st minute in the second half to add to his tally. Neco Williams’ low cross was touched towards Bale and Wales’ all-time leading scorer took his tally to 38 with a fierce drive into the top far corner.

Austria managed to dent the 2-0 lead when Sabitzer’s shot deflected off Ben Davies and bobbled into the Welsh net to rattle the nerves of those in the audience. Austria seized on that unease to take control of the second half, albeit without creating many clear-cut scoring opportunities.

The whole stadium let out a collective roar as the final whistle blew with Wales surviving the late barrage.

Robert Page’s men still have one more game to navigate, but this victory will strengthen their belief that this is the team to end their nation’s long wait to play at a World Cup which has remained elusive despite their golden generation leading from the front.