Wednesday, 15 June 2016 by

Gareth Bale shrugs off claims that Wales are a "one-man team" and says the Dragons' strength is their unity but the Real Madrid forward is the man England must stop if they are to kick-start their Euro 2016 campaign.

Bale is in possibly the best form of his career and scored in Wales' 2-1 victory over Slovakia in their tournament opener.

Here, Press Association Sport looks into why England have every reason to fear Bale in Lens on Thursday.

How was his form in the Euro qualifiers?

Tasty. Bale had a hand in nine of Wales' 11 goals in qualifying: scoring seven and assisting a further two. That was a higher share than any other player at the finals. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only other player at Euro 2016 with greater than 50 per cent: 12 of Sweden's 19 (11 goals, one assist). Kyle Lafferty was involved in half of Northern Ireland's (eight out of 16, seven goals and one assist).

So was it all down to lucky finishing?

Hardly. Bale scores all type of goals and took more shots than any other player in qualifying: 50 (one more than Ibrahimovic's 49 with Rooney third on 45). This accounted for 42.4 per cent of the 118 shots that Wales took during qualifying: also the highest percentage by far. Ibrahimovic's efforts accounted for 37.1 per cent of Sweden's 132 and Rooney's 45 just 24.2 per cent of England's 186.

How has his accuracy been at Euro 2016?

Spot on. Against Slovakia all five of his shots were on target - including scoring with Wales' first ever goal attempt at the Euros. Compare that to his team-mates testing the Slovakia goalkeeper only three times between them. Aaron Ramsey had two shots on target and Hal Robson-Kanu one, the latter proving to be the winner to put Wales top of Group B.

Has he been the Real deal, though?

This season Bale has racked up goals for Real Madrid at his highest-ever rate, narrowly eclipsing his final season at Tottenham. Despite missing a chunk of the season through injury, his goal against Slovakia saw him match last season's combined tally for club and country with 22 strikes. He's needed just 36 games to reach this total, whereas it took him 54 appearances in the 2014/15 season. This works out as 0.61 goals per game, edging his 2012/13 Spurs season where 31 goals in 52 games gave him a marginally lower average of 0.60.

So how do you contain him?

It's almost impossible because he's such an all-round threat. His dipping 25-yard free kick against Slovakia can be added to another two strikes from outside the penalty area during qualifying - trademark dead-ball efforts. He also has a prodigious spring and scored with two headers, as well as three clinical finishes from inside the box to spearhead Wales' first qualification for a major finals since 1958. His £85.3million transfer to Real in 2012 made him the most expensive player in the world, now at 26 years of age he is most definitely one of the very best.

Source: PA-WIRE