Toulouse (France) June 21 (IANS) Gareth Bale, Real Madrid’s star and the talisman of Wales, scored three goals in the ongoing Euro football championship group stage, one for each game, to top the scorer’s list and guide the debutants to the last 16 as Group B winner here.
The prolific start to the 2016 finals made Bale tie the record by Milan Baros of the Czech Republic and Netherlands’ Ruud van Nistelrooy, both scoring in each of their first three games at Euro 2004, reports Xinhua.
The three goals made Bale all time top scorer of Wales in major tournaments ahead of Ivor Allchurch, who collected two in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden.
Wales last participated in a major tournament at the 1958 World Cup, in which they reached the quarter-finals. Since then, top-class footballers like Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs have been unable to lead Wales on the biggest stage.
However, Bale scored seven goals in the Euro 2016 qualifying, dragging Wales into a major tournament after a 58-year wait.
On June 11, Bale scored the first goal on a free kick against Slovakia in the Euro group B opener, helping Wales secure a 2-1 win and lead them to their first win in a major tournament.
The goal saw Bale become the first Welsh player to score at a major tournament since Terry Medwin’s goal against Hungary at the 1958 World Cup. He then followed this up by scoring another free-kick goal against England in the second group game, though Wales went on to lose the game 2-1, making him the first player to score two free kicks at a European Championship since German Thomas Hasler in 1992.
On Monday, Bale assisted left-back Neil Taylor to double the lead in the 20th minute and sealed the 3-0 win over Russia in the 67th minute when he got a through pass from Aaron Ramsey and beat Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev with a deft finish here.
Wales coach Chris Coleman told a press conference after the match, “Bale is a great player.”
Born in Cardiff in July 1989, Bale first came to the attention of Southampton at age nine. His football hero was a fellow Welshman and Manchester United player Giggs.
Bale began his professional career at Southampton, playing at left-back and earning acclaim as a free kick specialist. Bale moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007.
Then, managerial and tactical shifts saw him transform into a more attacking player. From the 2009-10 season, under the guidance of Harry Redknapp, Bale became an integral part of the team, rising to international attention during the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League.
In 2011 and 2013 he was named PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) players’ player of the year, and was named in the UEFA Team of the year.
On September 1, 2013, Bale was transferred to Real Madrid. So far, he scored 58 goals in 123 appearances for the Zinadine Zidane-coached club.
Bale made his senior international debut for Wales in May 2006, becoming the youngest player at that time to represent Wales. He has since earned over 50 caps and scored 22 international goals.
Renowned for his ball striking from a distance, swerving free kicks, and his ability to get past defenders with pace, Bale has received plaudits from his peers, who have described him as a footballer with “tremendous speed, great crossing ability, a great left foot and exceptional physical qualities”.
In the forthcoming knockout stage of Euro, Wales will meet the best third-placer from Group A, C or D. Bale is expected to continue his history-making tour.