He is the all-time leading record-goalscorer for Cymru with 33 goals to his name, and it was back in March 2018 that Gareth Bale broke Ian Rush's record of 28 goals for his country.
The Real Madrid star has scored a number of crucial goals on the international stage since his first strike against Slovakia in Cardiff as a teenager back in 2006, but his performances and general influence on the squad has been just as important in achieving qualification for two consecutive EURO finals.
Playing under John Toshack, Gary Speed, Chris Coleman and Ryan Giggs, Bale has been a consistent key player for each national team manager. Recently taking the captains armband, the four-time UEFA Champions League winner is regarded as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest, to wear the Cymru shirt.
In the first in a series of features for FAW.cymru, here's a look back of five pivotal goals that Bale has scored for Cymru over the course of his career to date, starting with that memorable free-kick that started a run that would eventually break the international record.
- Cymru 1-5 Slovakia
- Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
- 7 October 2006
- EURO 2008 qualifier
A teenage Gareth Bale was quickly establishing himself in manager John Toshack's plans having been fast-tracked through the intermediate ranks, and made his third appearance for Cymru in this EURO qualifier against Slovakia. The Southampton youngster was named in the starting line-up and showed why he was rated so highly with what would prove to be the first of many trademark free-kicks.
Bale became Cymru's youngest-ever goalscorer as his superb set-piece strike nestled in the corner of the Slovakian net, and while it was a day to otherwise forget as the side suffered a heaviest home defeat in almost a century, the goal brought the 17-year old Bale to prominence with a sign of what was to come.
- Cymru 2-1 Scotland
- Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
- 12 October 2012
- 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier
A stunning strike in the final minute of the match handed Chris Coleman his first victory of his managerial tenure. Having equalised from the penalty spot on 81 minutes, Bale showed his true quality as his drilled a superb effort into the Scotland goal from the left to earn his side the win.
But this victory was about more than three qualifying points. A young team still coming to terms with the loss of Gary Speed less than a year before, the whole nation was in desperate need of a euphoric football release, and that was exactly what Bale's winner provided.
The pouring rain added to the atmosphere and emotion of the occasion as Coleman sprinted down the touchline with his arms raised. The celebrations were about bringing closure to what had been the most difficult year in many of the players' lives, and reconnecting with the fans in a way other than in grief.
It was a turning point for the side, and Cymru would win two of the next three fixtures, having lost the previous four under Coleman's guidance. It was too late for this particular campaign, but the first steps were being taken for the success that would eventually follow.
- Cymru 1-0 Belgium
- Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
- 12 June 2015
- EURO 2016 qualifier
Gareth Bale marked his 50th international appearance in style as Chris Coleman's side defeated group favourites Belgium in what is regarded as one of the most impressive and important victories of the modern era. A pivotal moment in the qualifying campaign, it was a night that few of the red wall will ever forget.
A misdirected header from Radja Nainggolan presented Bale with the perfect opportunity, and he made no mistake as he calmly slotted the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the opening half. Cymru had to be at their best to withstand the increased pressure of the all-star visitors, but held on for the famous victory.
But Bale provided more than just the crucial goal in the game, and ran himself into the ground before being substituted in the final moments. The last match of a long and hard season, the collective team performance said everything about the character of the side, while the win took Coleman's team a huge step closer to qualification.
It was Bale's fifth goal in six qualifiers, and Cymru would eventually end a 58-year wait to reach the finals of a major tournament. The match will be remembered for a number of individual performances as much as the collective team effort, but it was Bale who once again claimed the headlines the following morning.
- Cymru 2-1 Slovakia
- Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
- 11 June 2016
- EURO 2016
Gareth Bale scored in every group game of the EURO 2016 finals in France, but it was his opening goal in the victory over Slovakia in Bordeaux that will be remembered as a defining moment in the tournament. This was the opening game, the game that generations of the red wall had waited for since the draw was made.
The anthem was a special moment for many, but Bale's free-kick after just 10 minutes brought back memories of his first-ever international goal against the same opponents a decade earlier. Euphoria inevitably followed, but there would be a lot more to come as Chris Coleman's side defied the odds to reach the semi-finals.
- China 0-6 Cymru
- Guangxi Sports Centre, Nanning
- 22 March 2018
- China Cup
Another composed finish from the left foot of Gareth Bale was typical of the majority of his previous 28 goals for Cymru, but this was the goal that eclipsed the previous all-time record set by Ian Rush. The goal completed the scoring as Ryan Giggs registered a convincing win in his first match as manager.
While the committed members of the red wall were out in force in China, Bale also received warm applause for his achievement from the Chinese community, as all three of his goals were celebrated by the locals as much as the travelling fans, such is the popularity of the Real Madrid man around the world.