France National team

Gareth Bale knows he has the entire country behind him when he plays for Wales, says Chris Coleman.

Wales manager Chris Coleman believes Gareth Bale is at his best when he feels wanted and is not "hung out to dry."

Coleman's side can take a massive step towards qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals by beating Group B leaders Belgium in Cardiff this week, and he began the build-up to Wales' biggest game in a decade by making a thinly veiled attack on what his star man has had to deal with at Real Madrid this season.

Bale has been heavily criticised by the Spanish media and Real fans amid reports of a fallout with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, and his car was attacked by supporters following a defeat to great rivals Barcelona in March.

But Bale - who will earn his 50th cap at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night - has been the standard-bearer for Wales' European Championship qualifying campaign, scoring four goals in five matches to help the Dragons reach the halfway point unbeaten and trailing star-studded Belgium only on goal difference.

"It's nice to be in an environment where you feel wanted, " Coleman said of Bale. "It's not so nice when you don't feel wanted. I'm not putting words in his mouth, but he knows what he's going to get when he walks onto the pitch at the Cardiff City Stadium.

"The people in the stadium will be right with him, the whole nation will be with him, and I think he'll enjoy that. He's loved here. He feels like he won't get hung out to dry, not here.

"He knows how important he is to us and he knows what people think of him and he thrives on that. He knows what the Welsh people think of him and he feels more loved here."

Gareth Bale has struggled at times to win over the local supporters at Real Madrid.

Belgium head into the game fresh from climbing into an all-time high of second position in the FIFA rankings, with only world champions Germany above them.

But Wales held them to a goalless draw in Brussels last November in a game which saw Belgium's Marouane Fellaini appear to land a nasty elbow on Joe Allen.

The Wales midfielder had to leave the field temporarily with blood pouring from his nose, but the Manchester United man escaped without punishment.

"Fellaini's hot-headed - he's shown that, " said Coleman, who will be in Paris on Sunday night to see Belgium's friendly with France. "Sometimes it works to his advantage, sometimes it doesn't. Do we make special plans for him? From corners and set-plays because they've got big boys and Fellaini is strong.


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