Euro 2016: Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes aims to thwart Wales' Gareth Bale

By Lyle JacksonBBC Sport
Aaron Hughes
Hughes came out of international retirement in 2012 shortly after O'Neill took over as manager
Euro 2016
Venue: France Date: 10 June - 10 July
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC 5 live sports extra and BBC Radio Wales. Plus the BBC Sport website and app

Aaron Hughes says Northern Ireland will be well prepared to shackle the threat of Gareth Bale in Saturday's Euro 2016 game against Wales.

Real Madrid forward Bale scored three times as the Welsh topped Group B ahead of England to set up a meeting with Michael O'Neill's side.

"The great thing about this tournament is you get to play against the top players," said Hughes, 36.

"On form, Gareth Bale is arguably the best player here."

Aaron Hughes is Northern Ireland's second most-capped player of all time

'The whole shape has to be right'

Northern Ireland have not conceded more than a single goal in any of their last 16 games.

And they know they must produce another solid defensive performance to stop Chris Coleman's impressive team and earn a quarter-final against Belgium or Hungary.

Hughes made his 101st Northern Ireland appearance for match against Ukraine in Lyon and the right-back kept his place for the 1-0 defeat by Germany.

"A player of Bale's calibre is important," said Hughes. "But you cannot stop one player on a man-to-man basis.

"The whole shape of the team has to be right and it takes a big effort from everyone."

Hughes club career on hold

Former Newcastle, Aston Villa and Fulham defender Hughes is currently without a club following the end of his brief spell with Melbourne City.

"I went to Australia because I wanted to continue playing international football," he said.

"To get on the pitch here has been great, but it would have all been worthwhile even if I had not played. I am here to enjoy it and absorb as much as I can.

"I cannot do anything about my club situation, and I do not want the two or three weeks here to pass by with other worries in my head."

Lafferty primed to play

Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty matched Bale's tally of seven goals in qualifying

Meanwhile, striker Kyle Lafferty says he is desperate to be involved in Saturday's last 16 match at the Parc des Princes.

The 28-year-old was left out for the victory over Ukraine and came on as a second-half substitute against Germany.

"I would love to get on the pitch, and if I get a chance to score it is up to me to take it," said Norwich City striker Lafferty, who has struggled to get games at club level.

"We played against Wales a few months ago so we know about some of their players. They have some world-class stars, but we have heart and determination.

"With a bit of luck, we can surprise a few teams. We are all fighting for each other."

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