Euro 2016: Last 16 means everything to Wales, says Gareth Bale

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Wales Sport in Dinard, France
Gareth Bale relishes Wales v Russia at Euro 2016

Gareth Bale says it would "mean everything" for Wales to qualify for the second round at Euro 2016.

The 26-year-old Real Madrid forward insists Chris Coleman's side are feeling no ill-effects following their dramatic defeat by England on Thursday.

Victory over Russia on Monday would guarantee Wales' place in the last 16, while a draw would probably be enough.

"It would mean everything to us. The first goal is to get out of the group and it's in our hands," said Bale.

"We still have the chance to do that and hopefully we can grab it with both hands."

'What England game?'

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge celebrates his winning goal against Wales

Wales made a winning start to their first major tournament finals since the 1958 World Cup, as a Bale free-kick helped them beat Slovakia 2-1.

Against England, he scored again to give his country a half-time lead, but they lost 2-1 as Daniel Sturridge scored in injury time.

When Bale was asked how long it took for Wales to recover from the disappointment, he laughed and said: "What England game?"

He added: "Obviously after the game we were very disappointed, especially to lose in that manner. But we had a chat straight away. Now we have to forget about it. It's over.

"Our fate is in our own hands. If you'd given us this at the start of the tournament, we would have taken it. We have it all to play for and we're still very excited."

Burgers and chips to ease the pain

Lego Eiffel Tower
David Cotterill posted a picture on his Twitter account of the Eiffel Tower, of sorts

Wales' players came up with a unique way to banish any blues after the England result, opting for a meal of burger and chips.

"After the England game we decided to go out for lunch as a group, the staff and players," said Bale.

"We had a nice meal out, everybody. Get away from the hotel a little bit, a change of scenery - and burger and chips seems to have helped!

"Obviously we are eating very well at the hotel. But it's nice to get a change and it lightens everyone's mood.

"There was also a nice dessert - I had pancake Nutella."

Spirits remain high in the Wales squad despite the nature of their defeat to England.

David Cotterill posted a picture on his Twitter account of the Eiffel Tower he had constructed out of Lego.

Bale said: "He did send it into the (What's App) group yesterday. I was like 'what is he doing?'

I don't even care how I play

CL Final celebration pic
Gareth Bale won a second Champions League title in three seasons as he finished the season strongly for club side Real Madrid

Real Madrid forward Bale, the world's most expensive footballer, insists he can reach higher levels in the tournament, despite scoring twice.

"I can do better. We've spoken about moving the ball better and if we don't keep the ball it's difficult to do what I try to do best," he said.

"But I couldn't care if I perform my worst in every single game as the important thing for me is doing the best for my nation.

"It's not about my performances, in my mind they don't matter at all.

"Individually, whether you score goals or win awards, it's irrelevant. I'd take playing rubbish every single game if it meant we could go as far as we can."

Memories of Russian heartache

Wales v Russia (2003)
Russia broke Wales hearts in 2003 - and a 14-year old Gareth Bale was in the crowd when it happened

Wales' match against Russia will have added significance, given their Euro 2004 play-off defeat against the same opposition.

Having hung on for a goalless draw in the first leg in Moscow, Wales lost the return fixture 1-0 in Cardiff.

A 14-year-old Bale was in the Millennium Stadium crowd on that night in November 2003, though he does not think the current crop will be affected by previous Welsh failures.

"I was actually at the game with my dad and a few of my friends," he said. "I was very young but I still remember it.

"But that was the past and this is now. No-one's even thinking of that experience. We want to go in with a fresh mind. We want to play like we've been doing and hopefully get the win."