Gareth Bale insists reaching the last eight of Euro 2016 is not enough for Wales ahead of their quarter-final against Belgium.
Wales meet Marc Wilmots’ side in Lille tonight with the incentive of going further in a major tournament than at any time in their history.
Jimmy Murphy’s side reached the quarter-final of the 1958 World Cup – the last time Wales played at a major tournament before this competition – but the current team could now eclipse that achievement.
“We have done well and the country is proud of us even if we do get knocked out,” said Real Madrid star Bale.
“But we want to keep going, we want to keep riding this wave. We want to go as far as we can and try to win the tournament. We understand the position we are in and everything else goes to the back of our mind. It is all about trying to beat Belgium and getting to the semis.”
Wales are unbeaten in their last three games against Belgium and won their last meeting 12 months ago.
Bale was on target as Wales won a Euro 2016 qualifier 1-0 in Cardiff and took a huge stride towards playing at this summer’s finals.
“We’re like their bogey team, aren’t we?” said Bale, referring to that victory and two previous draws in Brussels. “Hopefully that edge gets into their heads – you never know.
“We will definitely draw on those qualifiers, it gives us more knowledge on them. We know how to play against them and how they play.
“We know it will be a different game from the qualifiers and it is a more pressurised situation.
“But we understand what they are about, how they work, and we will hone our game plan to try and stop them but help our attack.”
Bale praised the role played by manager Chris Coleman since he succeeded the late Gary Speed in January 2012.Coleman had a difficult start in the job and a poor 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign included 6-1 and 3-0 defeats to Serbia.
But Coleman managed to turn things round in dramatic style and Bale says he strikes the perfect balance in the training camp.
“When he came in it was a difficult circumstance and he wanted to try and keep it similar to how it had been, and not change too much, too soon,” said Bale. “Obviously results did not go the right way, so he put his own stamp of authority on it and it has paid massive dividends.”
Meanwhile, Belgium captain Eden Hazard has returned to training ahead of tonight’s match. The Chelsea winger missed practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday because of a thigh problem.
But a training ground injury yesterday that has ruled out Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen for eight weeks has thrown Belgium’s defence further off-kilter.
The 29-year-old has been playing as left-back at Euro 2016, but was expected to play centrally alongside Spurs team-mate Toby Alderweireld with Thomas Vermaelen serving a suspension.
Jordan Lukaku, brother of Everton striker Romelu, and Manchester City’s Jason Denayer could now come into a makeshift backline already without captain Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata through injury.