Gareth Bale cast doubt on his Wales future by walking out of an interview when asked whether a last-16 European Championship defeat to Denmark would be his last international game. Bale has repeatedly avoided discussing his future, citing a reluctance to cause “chaos”, and last month twice declined to dispel speculation he would retire after this tournament.
Robert Page, the interim Wales manager, said the line of questioning was “insensitive” and insisted his captain had done the right thing by cutting short the pitchside interview. “I know you were asked yesterday if this was going to be your last game for Wales and you said you wanted at least another one,” was as far as the BBC reporter got, referencing the pre-match press conference, before Bale rolled his eyes and walked off camera.
Asked about Bale’s frustration, Page said: “Why would he want to answer a question about his future? For me, it’s an insensitive question. What is the point of asking that when he’s just come off the pitch after a defeat? Emotions are raw, so he’s done the right thing by walking away and gathering his thoughts.”
Wales finished with 10 men after the substitute Harry Wilson was sent off late on. “It’s not how we wanted the game to go,” Bale said. “We conceded a goal and the game changed a bit. We came out second half and conceded, which killed the momentum on our part. The boys are angry and frustrated but I’d rather we went out kicking and screaming than laying off and doing nothing.”
The Welsh skipper later clarified his thoughts about his future when speaking to S4C. “I want to continue to play,” he said. “People ask stupid questions all the time. I love playing for Wales. I will play for Wales until the day I stop playing football.”
As for what happens now for Wales, Bale added: “We’ve just started the World Cup campaign. We were just saying in there now, we need to take this experience into the World Cup campaign. I feel like we have a very good way of playing when we play well. We just need to keep that confidence high, keep playing football and I think we can qualify for the next World Cup.”
The Denmark manager, Kasper Hjulmand, said the outpouring of support from fans following the Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest a fortnight ago had given the team “wings”. Kasper Dolberg scored twice before Joakim Mæhle and Martin Braithwaite wrapped up a convincing victory.
“When Christian collapsed that’s where everything changed, for me at least,” Hjulmand said. “We were suddenly put in a totally different situation. We needed the love and the support and that is what gave us wings. I admire the boys, they are warriors. I am grateful for the support we keep receiving. It’s crazy. Knowing this [Ajax’s stadium] is also Christian’s first home after leaving Denmark, he is with us and I would love for him to have been here.”
Page insisted Wales should look back on the tournament positively and urged the players to look forward to 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia in September. “We’ve got to learn from it,” he said. “We’re a young group, we’ll bounce back and move forward. We’ve just said to the them: ‘You’ll become bigger and better for this experience.’ It will hold us in good stead for the future. There are World Cup qualifiers just around the corner. We’ve had a taste of tournament football and we want more of it.”