Gareth Bale could erase 64 years of mischief as Wales prepares for a World Cup playoff against Ukraine in what could be his last game

Gareth Bale can erase the painful memories of wasting Paul Bowden’s penalty in 1993 – by firing Wales to the World Cup.

The Dragons aim to reach the Finals for the first time in 64 years as they face an emotional final showdown with war-torn Ukraine.

Bale trains ahead of Sunday's decisive confrontation with Ukraine

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Bale trains ahead of Sunday’s decisive confrontation with Ukrainecredit: PA
Every country dreams of playing in the World Cup and maybe even lifting it

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Every country dreams of playing in the World Cup and maybe even lifting itcredit: Getty

They hope that Bale players like Bale can inspire them to qualify for the World Cup Finals after suffering the heartbreak of falling at the last hurdle, particularly in the qualifying campaigns in 1977, 1985 and 1993.

Controversial decisions in favor of the Scots cost Wales twice, while their 1993 showdown with Romania centered on a fateful Bowden penalty.

Needing a win to get to USA 94, the Swindon defender fired a penalty at 1-1 off the crossbar as the Eastern Europeans went on to win 2-1 and qualify.

But Bowden, 57, backed former Real Madrid star Bale to score from 12 yards this time.

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Wales are set to get a £10m windfall if Gareth Bale can push them to the World Cup

Asked if he was confident the Wales champion could succeed from his place, Bowden, now coach of the Wales Under-21 national team, said: “Absolutely.

“The level the guy played for a number of years, the Champions League matches – all the great goals he scored.

“If he was the designated penalty taker, I wouldn’t be concerned at all.

“I just hope it doesn’t end in penalties. It’s a one-time match. I hope the best team can advance, fingers crossed.”

Since 1993, the left-back has borne the scars of a past as Wales, who had stars such as Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs in their ranks, missed out on the final tournament in football.

However, Wales qualified for two European Championships in a row in 2016 and 2020 – beating Austria 2-1 in the World Cup semi-finals in March.

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If The Dragons overtake Ukraine and reach the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1958, it has been revealed that they could earn £10m through qualification bonuses and sponsorship deals.

On the other hand, the loss could lead to the immediate retirement of Bale, who is said could be called a day in his football career if Rob Page’s side fail to advance to the World Cup.

Bale’s contract with Real Madrid expires this summer after joining the club in 2013. Injuries and a frosty relationship with fans marked the beginning of the second half of his Los Blancos career.

In a statement confirming Bale’s departure, Real Madrid said: “Real Madrid would like to express its gratitude and affection to Gareth Bale, a player who is now part of the legend of this club forever.

“Real Madrid has always been and always will be his home, and we wish him and his family all the best.”

The 32-year-old was given a standing ovation during the trophy parade following the clubs’ Champions League final win over Liverpool.

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Bale described it as an “honour” to play for Real Madrid.

England will play the winner of the play-off between Wales and Ukraine in the World Cup group, along with the United States and Iran.



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