Gareth Bale predicts bright future for Wales

Match-winner Gareth Bale says Wales' impressive conclusion to Euro 2012 qualifying is "just the beginning" for Gary Speed and company.

The Tottenham winger again showcased the form that has seen him crowned Wales Footballer of the Year in successive seasons as he grabbed his fifth international goal to seal a 1-0 win over Bulgaria in Sofia on Tuesday night.

That gave the Dragons back-to-back victories in competitive fixtures for the first time since 2005, and is likely to see Speed's side take another significant stride up the FIFA world rankings when the new standings are released.

The win at a sparsely-populated Vasil Levski Stadium was also a third in four qualifiers, and picking up three points on the road has further increased hopes that this young Welsh squad can launch a genuine challenge for a place at the 2014 World Cup.

Bale, 22, is desperate for this positive string of results not to be the peak of what Wales can achieve under Speed, and believes there is plenty more to come.

He said: "We're building under the new manager and heading in the right direction. We all know what our ultimate goal is but we've got to keep working hard, this is just the beginning.

"It's been a great year really. We all knew how disappointed everyone was with how the campaign started (with four straight defeats) and how it was going. But since the new gaffer has come in, we're improving all the time.

"He's organised us well, we're trying things and getting the ball down and playing and scoring goals.

"We know there is a long way to go but all the lads are working hard to achieve that long-term goal. It's all steps in the right direction at the moment."

Speed hailed Bale's contribution in Sofia as "phenomenal" as the former Southampton man again turned in a display filled with his trademark pace and trickery.

Bale and captain Aaron Ramsey are arguably the most influential players in the Wales set-up, but he insists that the emphasis is on team performances over individual accolades, and that this squad can go on to end a wait for a place at a major finals that stretches back to 1958.

"It's important (to have big-name players available), but it's not about individuals, it's about the team," said Bale.

"We're not a big nation so we need every player to come in and play well. As soon as a game comes, we need everyone to be coming if they are not injured.

"If we give it our all, as all the players have shown with their commitment this year, then we can of course do well.

"The 2014 World Cup is our target. We're not about to come into it to make up the numbers. We have the players and have the squad now to do well. That is our aim.

"We want to achieve something for Wales, we feel we can do that."

PA

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