Bale was at his brilliant best by scoring twice to take Wales into a World Cup playoff final with a 2-1 win over Austria in Cardiff on Thursday. The 32-year-old has barely featured for Real Madrid in the final year of his contract with the Spanish giants and was fiercely criticised for declaring himself unfit for Madrid's 4-0 defeat to Barcelona last weekend. "I'm not sending a message to anyone," Bale told Sky Sports on his badge-kissing celebration. "It's a waste of my time. It's disgusting and they should all be ashamed of themselves."
Bale had played just 77 minutes at club level since the last international break in November but showed no signs of rustiness as he again carried the hopes of a nation. The four-time Champions League winner smashed home an inch-perfect free-kick to open the scoring and produced another perfect finish just after half-time to double the home side's lead.
Wales have not reached a World Cup since 1958, but are now just one home match against either Scotland or Ukraine away from qualifying for Qatar. "I can hit a free-kick if I am fit to play," added Bale. "It was nice to see it go in and give us that momentum and nice to get the second one as well. I had some cramp at the end which is normal. I'll run myself into the ground for this country, we all did tonight."
Aaron Ramsey has also struggled to club minutes, both with Juventus and during a loan spell with Scottish champions Rangers. But he also played the full 90 minutes and said the home crowd could prove the difference in the final. "It means everything playing in front of these (fans)," said Ramsey. "We are one game away from a World Cup which is everything for me, Bale, the crowd, everyone."
Ramsey also defended his teammate and underlined the importance of playing for his country to Bale. "It's not been easy for him, but coming and playing for his country means everything to him," added Ramsey. "We're a great group, we all want to play for each other and we're grateful to have him."