Gareth Bale’s(11) most iconic moments in World Cups

Gareth Bale has produced a series of magical moments throughout his playing career, from smashing Brazil full-back Maicon to score his first senior hat-trick against the European champions at the San Siro to helping Wales reach the World Cup. Real Madrid has five Champions League championships – the same amount as Barcelona and two more than Manchester United – three FIFA Club World Cups, and over 100 goals in their history. That, however, was not the driving force behind a career that saw an allegedly cursed left-back transform into one of the finest forwards of his age.

Gareth Frank Bale MBE (born July 16, 1989) is a former Welsh professional footballer who played as a winger. He is largely considered to be one of the finest wingers of his age, as well as one of the greatest Welsh footballers of all time. Bale started his professional career with Southampton, where he played left back and earned a reputation as a free-kick expert. Bale joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 for a cost of £7 million. During his tenure at Tottenham, he was transformed into a more offensive player as a result of managerial and tactical changes.

Bale became a vital component of the club under Harry Redknapp beginning in the 2009-10 season, coming to worldwide prominence during the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League. He was voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2011 and 2013, and he was chosen to be the UEFA Team of the Year in 2013. He was also awarded PFA Young Player of the Year in 2013, as well as FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season.

Between 2011 and 2013, he was nominated for the PFA Team of the Year three times in a row. Bale was signed by Real Madrid for an unknown sum in 2013, which was later proven to be a world record transfer cost of £85.1 million (€100.8 million). Bale was a member of the succeeding BBC three, which included Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, and helped the club win the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League in 2013-14, scoring in both finals.

He won the UEFA Super Cup the following season and scored in a third major final to help the team win the FIFA Club World Cup. Due to ongoing injuries, Bale saw his game time decrease in the following seasons, despite winning La Liga in 2016-17 and 2019-20, as well as three additional Champions League titles in 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18, among other trophies; he appeared in the first and third consecutive finals, scoring twice – once with an overhead kick – in Real Madrid’s 2018 UEFA Champions League Final victory.

He returned to Tottenham on loan in 2020-21, and the next season was his last with Real Madrid when he won another league trophy as well as his fifth Champions League title despite receiving minimal playing time. In July 2022, he joined the MLS team Los Angeles FC, where he won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup that season. Bale made his senior international debut for Wales in May 2006, becoming him the country’s youngest player at the time.

He went on to win 111 caps for Wales and score 41 international goals, earning him the country’s most-capped player and best goalscorer of all time. He was Wales’ leading scorer in their victorious qualification campaign for UEFA Euro 2016, scoring seven goals; he then represented Wales in the final tournament, scoring three goals as they reached the semi-finals.

He then played for Wales in Euro 2020 and was instrumental in Wales’s qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, ending a 64-year World Cup absence. He was awarded Welsh Footballer of the Year six times in a row. Bale announced his retirement from football in January 2023, at the age of 33.

1. Gareth Bale does it in Stoke on a sunny afternoon

Gareth Bale's most iconic moments in World Cups

It’s amazing to imagine that Bale wasn’t known for his finishing in his early career. Surprisingly, Tottenham failed to win in his first 24 Premier League games after signing for £10 million from Southampton. However, after lasting more than two and a half years without scoring, including the first red card of his career, Gareth Bale scored winning goals in consecutive games as Spurs defeated London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in April 2010.


It wasn’t until the following season that his sight for goal really blossomed. It wasn’t exactly a rainy Wednesday, but Bale demonstrated his attacking brilliance with a beautiful volley against Stoke City at the start of the 2010/11 season. Under Harry Redknapp, his transition from full-back to winger was still in its early stages, which may explain why he was afforded time and space to shoot his left-foot effort past Thomas Sorensen and into the top far corner from Aaron Lennon’s cross.

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2. Arranging for a taxi for Maicon

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Injuries and management changes at White Hart Lane slowed his growth, and there was talk of his being sent out. But he quickly showed his talent and reached new heights in a Champions League match against Inter Milan in October 2010. Gareth Bale annihilated Brazil full-back Maicon on his way to his first senior hat-trick against the European champions at the San Siro.

Spurs lost 4-3 despite having goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes sent off in the eighth minute, but it was the night a star was created and the slogan ‘Taxi for Maicon’ entered football’s language. Bale’s man-of-the-match performance in Spurs’ 3-1 second-leg triumph was replicated, and his meteoric ascent saw him voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2011 and 2013, making him just the seventh player to win the accolade twice at the time.

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3. At Upton Park, Gareth Bale wins at the death

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Bale was now Tottenham’s star, and it was his eighth goal in six games in February 2013 that Spurs fans consider being one of his best for the club. A topsy-turvy battle was won in the last minute in an astonishing manner at the home of London rivals West Ham. Picking up the ball in a central position some way from goal, he turned it onto his preferred left foot and arrowed a shot into the top corner, dipping past Jussi Jaaskelainen’s extended right hand.

In 2013, Gareth Bale was awarded PFA Young Player of the Year as well as Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year. After scoring 31 goals for club and country in the 2012-13 season, it was evident that Spurs would struggle to retain Gareth Bale – and on September 1, 2013, Real Madrid paid a world record amount of £85.3 million to buy him.

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4. A triumphant conclusion to his debut season with Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale’s time at Real Madrid can be divided into two parts: first, he shone brilliantly in a breathtaking BBC attack force of Gareth Bale, (Karim) Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo (Ronaldo). He ran from the halfway line and off the field at one point to score an astonishing Copa del Rey final winner against Barcelona in 2014.

Bale running into the Mestalla touchline as he burns Marc Bartra is a permanent reminder of his tenure at the club. “Bartra pushes me and attempts to obstruct me,” Gareth Bale said at the time. “I had to work my way around him. It was fantastic to score, but winning the game and the Cup is even better.” After outpacing Bartra, he scored from a tight angle for his 20th goal in his first season in Spain and his first goal in a Clasico match.

After the game, then-head coach Carlo Ancelotti said of Bale’s winning goal: “It was perhaps his most significant goal, and it came at a critical juncture in the game. He played an excellent game. Every player performed well because they worked as a unit. To defeat Barcelona, you must play as a cohesive unit, which they did.”

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5. Winning the Champions League for the first time

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Gareth Bale also scored the game-winning goal in Real Madrid’s Champions League final triumph against Atletico Madrid later that season. Indeed, by heading home in the 4-1 extra-time victory against his neighbors, he became the first Welshman to score in a Champions League final. The Welshman had really been quiet and had squandered two excellent opportunities before becoming a legend with the decisive goal.

Adding La Decima to his Copa del Rey triumph was not bad for his debut season in Spain.  I’ve learned from previous experience to keep going, forget about the opportunities you’ve missed, and persevere,” Gareth Bale said on the field at Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.

Fortunately, I scored the game-winning goal. That was exciting to watch it go in. I came here to compete in huge tournaments and win prizes. This is what every player hopes for, and it doesn’t get much better than this in club football. Lifting the trophy is an experience unlike any other, and it is one I will never forget.”

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6. Kiev’s overhead kick

Perhaps none of Gareth Bale’s 100-plus goals for Real Madrid are more famous than his overhead kick in the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool. It’s easy to forget that Bale came off the bench for the game, but it ended up being the pinnacle of his club career. After misery and humiliation, he would produce a showcase moment, his 64th-minute overhead kick clinching the Spanish giants’ 13th European Cup and fourth in five seasons.

It gave Real a 2-1 lead from the edge of the 18-yard box and is deservedly considered one of the best goals in Champions League history. Gareth Balewas voted player of the match after becoming the first replacement to score twice in a Champions League final.

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7. France’s European journey

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Wales was the place to be for Gareth Bale, the Cardiff native who went to the Millennium Stadium with his father Frank as a 10-year-old to see his hero Ryan Giggs play. Representing Wales meant everything to Bale. He scored three goals during his country’s fairy-tale journey to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France, upsetting Belgium along the way.

After scoring the game-winning goal in the 2-1 win over Slovakia in the group stages, Gareth Bale also sealed a 3-0 triumph over Russia – but it was his free-kick against England that would have given him the most joy, although in the loss. It would not, however, stop Chris Coleman’s men on their amazing march to the last four.

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8. Gareth Bale takes the spotlight in the match against Austria

Wales drew one step closer to their first World Cup since 1958 when Gareth Bale stole the show in a 2-1 play-off semi-final triumph over Austria in March. Gareth Bale scored both of Wales’ goals, the first a magnificent free-kick from 25 yards that sailed into the top corner, followed by a clinical second. Lewis Jones of Sky Sports stated in his match report: “Bale entered the game with worries about his health after missing the El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday.

He also understood that, with his 33rd birthday approaching, this year’s World Cup would be his last opportunity to play on football’s largest platform.” Make no mistake, this was one of his best evenings, and it was the first time Wales actually believed their 64-year wait would be over.

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9. Securing Wales’ World Cup place

Gareth Bale’s future has been the subject of much speculation in recent seasons, with his playing time at the club level restricted, but his value to Wales has never wavered, and he drove them to their first World Cup since 1958 with a deflected winner against Ukraine last summer.

The crucial first-half finish was first scored as an own goal by Andriy Yarmolenko, who stooped to unintentionally head in a Bale free-kick. It was one of his scruffiest goals, but maybe the most crucial, yet it wasn’t formally attributed to him until three and a half weeks later. It also meant that Gareth Bale had scored all three goals for his nation in their two playoff games, cementing his position as a talisman.

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10. The last club goal of Gareth Bale’s career

Bale joined Los Angeles FC in June 2022, but he only appeared in two MLS games. While he was a shell of his former self, he retained his knack for big-game performance. His ability to be in the right place at the right moment was on display in his last club outing.

He scored on his last club appearance in November, helping LAFC win the MLS Cup in a penalty shootout victory against the Philadelphia Union. It would be Gareth Bale’s 17th title in a spectacular career, and it would give him great momentum ahead of Wales’ historic comeback to the international stage this winter.

  • Gareth Bale has 111 caps for Wales’ men’s national team, which is a record.
  •  A national men’s team goal-scoring record, breaking Ian Rush’s previous mark of 28.
  • When Real Madrid purchased Gareth Bale from Tottenham for £85.3 million in September 2013, he became the most expensive player in global football.
  • Real Madrid has won five Champions League championships.
  • Real Madrid has scored 106 goals.
  • Gareth Bale has played for four clubs: Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, and Los Angeles FC.
  • On May 27, 2006, Gareth Bale was 16 years and 315 days old when he became the youngest player to play for his nation.
  • Harry Wilson set the record against Belgium in October 2013 at the age of 16 years and 207 days.
  • On October 7, 2006, he became Wales’ youngest-ever goal scorer, netting against Slovakia in a Euro 2008 qualifier with a signature free-kick.
  • Became the first Welsh player to score two international hat-tricks, against China in March 2018 and Belarus in September 2021.
  • Wales scored seven goals in Euro 2016 qualification, ending a 58-year drought to compete in a major event.
  • At Euro 2016, he scored three goals against England, Slovakia, and Russia.
  • In doing so, he became the first player since Milan Baros and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004 to score in all three group games at the Euros.
  • Free kicks, With his devastating set-pieces at Euro 2016, Gareth Bale became the first player since Germany’s Thomas Hassler in 1992 to score two free-kicks in a European Championship.
  • With his swerving free-kick against Slovakia, he became the first Wales player in 58 years to score in a major international competition.
  • In Qatar, Gareth Bale became the first Welsh player in 64 years to score in a World Cup.
  • Terry Medwin had previously scored against Hungary in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

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