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Euro 2016: Gareth Bale urges Wales to ‘do nation proud’

Gareth Bale has dismissed the notion Wales are a one-man team as he prepares to spearhead their Euro 2016 campaign.

Wales face Slovakia on Saturday in what will be their first match at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

Although Bale scored seven of Wales’ 11 goals in qualifying for Euro 2016, the Real Madrid forward does not feel under more pressure than his team-mates.

“I want to enjoy myself on the football pitch, like you do when you’re a kid,” he said.

“The Welsh side here now, we’re all like brothers. We’re friends, we joke around and play together but, when it comes down to serious business, we all fight for each other.

“We have fun at the same time. We want to come here and enjoy it and, when you enjoy your football, you play your best.”

Gareth Bale poses for photographs with French fans at Wales’ open training session in Dinard on Wednesday

Bale came on for the final half an hour of Wales’ 3-0 friendly defeat in Sweden on Sunday, his first international appearance since October.

Wales manager Chris Coleman opted against starting the 26-year-old after he had appeared to struggle with cramp as he played the full 120 minutes of Real Madrid’s Champions League final win against rivals Atletico the previous weekend.

The listless nature of Wales’ performance in Sweden before Bale’s introduction prompted the likes of former captain Kevin Ratcliffe to raise concerns about the team’s over-reliance on the former Tottenham forward.

However, Bale refutes any suggestions he is the only attacking threat in the Welsh side.

“It’s never a one-man team. There’s 11 men on the pitch for a start,” he said.

“For us, it’s a squad thing. ‘Together Stronger’ [Wales’ motto] is there for a reason. We don’t just say it for no reason.

“We all work hard as one unit. We attack as one, we defend as one. When we lose the ball, we all fight back together.

“People write stories, they can write what they want, but we all know we work very hard on the training pitch every day and, come match-day, we work even harder.”

Who do you think should start at Euro 2016? Step into Chris Coleman’s shoes and pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our brand new team selector.

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Rangers are the Challenge Cup holders but will not play next season after their promotion

The Scottish Challenge Cup is being expanded to include teams from Wales and Northern Ireland from season 2016-17, following approval from Uefa.

The tournament for teams outside the top flight will also include an under-20s side from each Scottish Premiership club in the first round.

Four teams from the Highland League and four from the Lowland League will also enter at that stage in August.

Two Welsh sides and two from Northern Ireland enter the last 16 in October.

It is expected these will be the top two from the Welsh Premier League and Northern Ireland Football League, meaning places for The New Saints and Bala Town and Crusaders and Linfield.

One Welsh side and one from Northern Ireland will be guaranteed a home tie.

Draws will be regionalised throughout the competition and seeded for the first three rounds, with the final to be played in March.

“We are very pleased to be supported by Uefa in delivering an element of cross-border competition through the invitation to our colleagues in Northern Ireland and Wales,” said Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster.

The SPFL say the majority of fixtures will take place during international weekends, while BBC ALBA, S4C and Premier Sports will all show live matches.

Championship winners Rangers lifted the trophy last season, beating Peterhead in the final at Hampden.

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