Gareth Bale has been named in the Wales squad for their World Cup play-off final against Scotland or Ukraine despite recent back trouble as they seek to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1958. The captain has made just two substitute appearances for Real Madrid since scoring both goals in Wales’s 2-1 World Cup play-off victory over Austria on March 24.
The 32-year-old has been absent from Real’s past five matchday squads with a back problem but has returned to training in the Spanish capital and is on course to be available for the club’s Champions League final clash against Liverpool on May 28. But Bale’s long-term future at club level remains uncertain, amid speculation he could join hometown side Cardiff on a short-term deal.
“I think everybody is probably thinking the same thing (about Bale’s future),” said Wales manager Robert Page. “It will depend on how results go with regards to what he does next season with a club.
Page added: “The only person who can answer that is Gareth. All I know is whenever he turns up for us he is first-class. The full focus on himself is winning this game against Ukraine or Scotland, so he can worry about that after.”
Aaron Ramsey is included for the play-off in Cardiff on June 5 after suffering penalty shoot-out misery with Rangers in their Europa League final loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday. Page, however, had full confidence in Ramsey to take a spot-kick against either Scotland or Ukraine should qualification for Qatar 2022 be decided by a shoot-out.
Asked if he still had faith in Ramsey, Page replied: “Absolutely, 100 percent.” And he insisted “world-class footballer” Ramsey would bounce back from seeing his penalty saved by Eintracht goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
“He had the courage and conviction to take a penalty,” said Page. “Top players recover from that, no problem. “I have no doubt whatsoever if it comes to penalties (for Wales) that he will take one.”
Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward is available again after knee surgery and replaces Salford’s Tom King. Bournemouth forward Kieffer Moore also returns to the squad after missing the Austria win with a broken foot. Wales also face four Nations League ties in June, with home and away games against the Netherlands as well as a trip to Poland and a visit from Belgium.