Heading into the World Cup, there were very few certainties.
The mid-season nature of the tournament made it very difficult to predict, while a number of the stronger nations had shown very patchy form in the buildup to the event.
One thing we did know was that Wales' fortunes would rest largely on Gareth Bale. That proved to be the case in their opener against USA.
The Welsh were very poor in the first half of the game, while Bale himself looked well short of his best. However, he stood up when it counted by winning and converting a penalty to rescue a point for his side.
Who else but Gareth Bale?
Bale equalises from the spot.
USA 1-1 Wales, 84 minutes gone. #USAWAL #FifaWorldCup #RTESoccer
📺Live now on @rte2 and @rteplayer: https://t.co/2W5kFubRRc
📱Live updates: https://t.co/1MR8EUfBnX pic.twitter.com/VXxQVbZUES
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 21, 2022
It is clear that Wales are still hugely reliant on him, especially when it comes to producing at pivotal moment.
Graeme Souness under fire for Gareth Bale comments
While Gareth Bale is still a key man at international level, his club career is now winding down.
At 33-years old, he had struggled at both Real Madrid and Spurs in recent times before moving to Los Angeles FC in the MLS. He has had a bit impact in LA, but some may have hoped he would be playing at a higher level at this point in his career.
Speaking on ITV, Graeme Souness criticised the Welshman for the way his career has gone over the last few season.
He's a real mystery to me Gareth Bale. At 33, okay maybe he shouldn't still be at Real Madrid, but he should still be a big player at a big club.
It's a complete mystery. With what you read and see on the television, it's as if he prioritises golf nowadays.
Your career goes in a flash. Ask us, it just goes way too quickly. He should still be at the highest level.
The last couple of years at Real Madrid were a joke for somebody of that quality. What a player he has been.
He's still capable of big moment, but you won't see too many of those big moments. It's a bit like Ronaldo and Messi, they're still capable but it's not going to be happening on a regular basis.
Bale has had some major struggles with injuries, but there some also some big questions about his attitude during the latter stages of his career in Spain.
Despite this, the comments from Souness have gone down very badly with Wales fans.
Souness and Cole questioning Bale’s commitment saying his last couple years have been a joke and his moments are becoming less and less frequent 🤣
Tell me you ain’t watched a Cymru game in the last 2 years without telling you ain’t watched a Cymru game in the last 2 years.
— 🗯 (@cpdnatxo) November 24, 2022
Souness spouting more nonsense again about Wales and Bale on ITV
He can’t help himself 🗣💩
— Soccer Cymru ⚽️ 🏴 (@soccercymru) November 24, 2022
Souness doesnt have a clue does he? He’s acting like it was Bale’s choice to sit on the bench for Madrid and even said his last 2 years at Madrid were a joke even though one of those were spent on loan at Spurs where he scored 11 goals in 20 appearances. As for the golf comment🤦🏻♂️
— Welsh Fan Zone TV 🏴 (@WelshFanZoneTV) November 24, 2022
Souness slagging Bale off - “How he left Madrid was a joke” , “He prefers playing golf to football” 😂😂😂
I’ve never known a bloke to live rent free in so many heads 🙃🏴😂
VIVA GARETH BALE
— Richard Moore (@rich10689) November 24, 2022
Souness is an incredible dinosaur. Getting stuck into Bale without a single ounce of knowledge of his physical state. Chucking in the golf line. Put these fossils out to grass.
— SWSPURS (@swspurs) November 24, 2022
Souness has to be the worst pundit I have ever seen💀 On about Bales career and he shouldn't be playing golf. Do some research on players etc if you are going to be a pundit, talking utter nonsense💩
— Liam Griffiths (@LiamGriffiths10) November 24, 2022
Gareth Bale has rattled Souness here. Great stuff. Inject it. Twice the player Souness ever was and it's rattling him to the core
— Ricky Harries (@RickyHarries) November 24, 2022
Sourpuss Graeme Souness critiques Bale, saying he prefers golf (blah) and careers pass in a flash, seemingly unaware that Gareth has been playing international football for 16 years.
— Helen the Zen 🏴 💙 (@helenmallam) November 24, 2022
Of course, both sides to that argument are valid.
Gareth Bale clearly did not do enough in recent seasons at club level, sitting on the bench for huge portions of the latter half of his time at Real Madrid. It is also obvious that he is no longer in the physical condition that he once was due to his injury issues.
From a Welsh point of view, very little of that matters as long as he continues to produce for his country.