LONDON : Gareth Bale says he feels more settled after a turbulent period at Real Madrid and is “raring to go” as Wales prepare to take on Azerbaijan in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday.
Bale looked set to leave Real in a big-money move to China in the transfer window, only for the Spanish giants to pull the plug at the last moment.
The 30-year-old ended a scoring drought stretching back to March with two goals in the 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal on Sunday but was sent off in stoppage time.
“The transfer window has closed,” Bale said on Thursday. “I don’t think mentally it affected me but I had not played for four to six weeks. “It was nice to be back on the scoresheet (for Real Madrid) and now I am fit and raring to go.”
Real teammate Thibaut Courtois suggested in an interview earlier this year that Bale was often isolated from the rest of the squad and was called the “golfer” due to his passion for the sport.
But Bale said he was happy with the moniker, adding: “I am a golfer. People make a lot of it, but I enjoy it and it keeps me calmer on the pitch.”
The Wales forward said not being picked by Harry Redknapp at Spurs “for a year” was a harder time in his career.
“I just kept my head down and worked hard in training,” he said. “If you want answers you maybe need to ask Real Madrid.”
Wales trail group leaders Hungary by six points, with a game in hand, and are three points adrift of Croatia and Slovakia in the race for a top-two spot.
Wales boss Ryan Giggs was pleased with Bale’s contribution on Sunday and said: “When he scores he tends to get on a roll.”
Giggs revealed that Ben Woodburn is likely to be missing against Azerbaijan due to illness but confirmed that the rest of his squad are fit and available, including Daniel James.
Manchester United’s new signing from Swansea has scored three goals in four appearances for the club so far this season.
Former United winger Giggs has not been surprised by James’s start to life at Old Trafford.
“He’s at the right club — a club which loves wingers,” Giggs said. “We’ve all seen what he’s capable of in the last eight or nine months and he’s going to get better and better.”
Mongolia, North Korea post wins in World Cup qualifying
Mongolia and North Korea both started the second round of Asian World Cup qualifying with wins on Thursday.
Mongolia, ranked 187th in the world and playing in the second round of qualifying for the first time, beat Myanmar 1-0 in Ulaanbaatar. Amaraa Dulguun scored the lone goal in the 17th minute of the Group F match. North Korea defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Group H with Jong Il Gwan scoring both goals in Pyongyang.
The winner of each of the eight groups and the four best second-place teams will advance to the next round.