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USMNT announces March match versus Giggs’ Wales

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Gregg Berhalter is set to match wits with Ryan Giggs when the United States men’s national team visits Wales this Spring.

The Yanks will visit Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on March 30, four days after visiting the Netherlands.

Wales and the USMNT are tied at 22nd in the FIFA rankings, though Wales is 25th in Elo Ratings to the Yanks’ 39th.

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“One of the important parts of continuing to develop this group is the opportunity to play against high-level opponents away from home,” Berhalter said in a press release. “The Netherlands is a soccer powerhouse featuring some of the world’s best talent. This game will be a good chance to compete as we build toward important competitions in the summer and fall.”

The two sides have only met once before, with Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis scoring in a 2003 win.

Wales is preparing for EURO 2020, where it’s in Group A with Turkey, Switzerland, and Italy.

The next competition for the USMNT is this summer’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras. Mexico and Costa Rica are in the other semi.

USMNT likely to play at Wales on March 30

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CHICAGO (AP) The U.S. Soccer Federation is negotiating to have the men’s national team play an exhibition at Wales on March 30.

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The match would follow an exhibition against the Netherlands at Eindhoven on March 26.

Both games would be on FIFA dates, allowing the U.S. to select from its full player pool.

The Americans started training this week in Bradenton, Florida, with players mostly from Major League Soccer ahead of an exhibition against Costa Rica on Feb. 1 at Carson, California. Training had been scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, but the USSF changed the venue after a U.S. military air strike last week killed a top Iranian military commander.

Gareth Bale sparks angry reaction at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale has upset plenty of people around Real Madrid and in Spain over the international break.

Following the 2-0 win against Hungary on Tuesday, Bale, 30, celebrated Wales reaching EURO 2020 by singing “Wales. Golf. Madrid” with this teammates, while holding a flag which had the same message and “in that order” printed on it.

Safe to say that didn’t go down well in Madrid, with Bale’s critics, of which there are many, livid with his actions.

Did it needlessly poor fuel on the fire? Yes. Was it a bit of banter towards his situation for Bale? Yes.

It has already spoken about playing for Wales being more fun than playing for Real Madrid and many in the Spanish capital were surprised to see him play for Wales over the international break as his last game for Real was on Oct. 5 due to injury.

Real’s fans don’t like Bale and their former president Roman Calderon called his behavior “childish” as others said fans should demand he leaves in their next game against Real Sociedad at home on Saturday.

Here are a selection of the headlines across the Spanish newspapers, as Bale still has three years left on his current contract a Real and looks set to stay, despite Zinedine Zidane desperate to offload him in the summer.

Bale in hot water at Madrid over Wales banner

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What Gareth Bale thought was a funny joke, Real Madrid is not finding so amusing.

After Wales secured qualification to the Euro 2020 finals, the squad – with Bale front and center – posed with a banner that read “Wales, golf, Madrid. In that order.”

The phrase was made famous by former Real Madrid striker and director of football Pedja Mijatovic, who jokingly said the phrase on the radio referencing Bale’s assumed priorities in his career. It blew up and Wales fans began to sing songs and make signs. Bale was asked about it in the media and laughed it off as “a good bit of fun.”

So, after defeating Hungary on Tuesday, the squad posed with one of the flags, laughing while holding it up in front of the Real Madrid star.

The Spaniards have not taken it well. Real Madrid supporters have long been touchy about Bale’s perceived love for golf and the notion that he puts it before his club responsibilities. There has been a perceived media agenda against Bale in Spain, and the headlines ran with the image, claiming Bale was intentionally “mocking” Madrid while posing for the picture with the flag. A poll that ran in Spanish publication MARCA saw a majority of fans claim the photo displayed “a lack of respect for the club and fans” as Bale poked fun at the notion he dislikes playing for his club.

Previous comments of Bale’s only fed the beast, as he attempted to explain why playing for Wales was “different” than playing for his club, but the quotes were picked apart out of context, with the media looking to paint Bale as playing favorites. Fans in Spain have been insulted that Bale seems to enjoy playing for his country more, and Bale’s return from injury to play for Wales before Madrid has been salt in the wound.

This all certainly has the feel of a means to an end in Spain.

Unhappy in Madrid, Bale ‘more excited’ to play for Wales

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Thanks to the ongoing FIFA-mandated international break, life is currently pretty good for Gareth Bale, who says he “definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales” compared to when he’s playing — or not playing — for his club, Real Madrid.

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Bale confirmed on Friday what the entire world has known for a couple of years now: that he’s thoroughly unhappy at not being allowed to leave Madrid this summer; that he never truly adapted to his home since the summer of 2013; and that his on-field performance has suffered for those reasons, as well as his extensive injury history — quotes from the BBC:

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feeling more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales.

“I’ve been with most of the players, especially the older ones, since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday.

“But it still doesn’t change what I give on the pitch. I always give 100 percent wherever I am, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

As for how Bale has been painted by the Spanish media, he says he only pays attention to the negative coverage when his friends since him “funny pictures or whatever they write,” but it’s clear he feels like an outsider and that’s a key reason he was so keen to leave the club and country when a(n even more) mega-money offer came from China this summer.

“I’ve heard some stories but I don’t really take notice. My friends tend to send me some funny pictures or whatever they write.

“I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me. On one, it said ‘triple bogey’ and I’ve never had a triple bogey. At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.”

Unfortunately for Bale, he’ll have to continue playing nice with manager Zinedine Zidane, until January at least.