Is now the time for Gareth to Bale out? Wales legend is running on empty | Ben Fisher

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Forward was reduced to a pawn on a chessboard of kings and queens as his side crashed out of World Cup after England loss

“You’re going home in the morning,” came the chorus from the England supporters after Marcus Rashford fired in an early second-half free‑kick and again, a little bit louder, when Phil Foden doubled their advantage 98 seconds later. It was salt into the wound for the bank of Wales fans at the other end – six‑and-a-bit blocks of the Red Wall – for whom a first World Cup finals in 64 years has turned out to be a rather dispiriting and demoralising experience. Was it really worth the wait? Gareth Bale will no doubt ponder the same question in the coming days.

Bale, who appeared to alert medical staff to a hamstring problem with about 10 minutes of the first half to play, was substituted at the break. Three weeks ago, on the day Rob Page announced his squad, the Wales manager conceded that whether Bale could handle three games in quick succession was the million‑dollar question, for which we now have a resounding answer: 256 minutes across eight days was simply too much for a player who has played such little football over the past few years. The painful truth is Bale’s three World Cup appearances comprise three duds. At the final whistle Bale limped on to the pitch, embraced Page and then Gareth Southgate.

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Written by Ben Fisher at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
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