Liverpool's Andrew Robertson says "special" Eden Hazard in world's top five players

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New Scotland captain Andrew Robertson believes Eden Hazard is among the best five players in the world as he prepares to lock horns with the Belgium playmaker on Friday night.

The World Cup semi-finalists will travel to Hampden Park for a friendly as preparation for their Nations League opener in Iceland on Tuesday, with the Scots hosting Albania in their first game in the tournament on Monday night.

Scots boss Alex McLeish has appointed the Liverpool left-back as his new skipper and Robertson has plenty of experience playing against the Chelsea forward, whom he rates highly.

The former Queen’s Park, Dundee United and Hull player said: “He is up there. He is probably in the top five at the minute.

“I played against him many a time and even if he is having a quiet game he can pop up at any point and turn a game and that is what we are up against.

“He is special. The way he turns and gets at players, he can commit two or three defenders at a time and that is a very special trait, there is not many that have it but he has it.

Special talent: Eden Hazard.

Special talent: Eden Hazard.

“He has been unbelievable for Chelsea and Belgium and he is somebody we will need to watch.

“The problem with Belgium is you can’t focus on Hazard as someone else pops up.

“That is one of the problems of playing a world-class team, you have to be aware of all their threats and we will be ready for them and do our best to stop them.”

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Wales boss Ryan Giggs heaps praise on Real Madrid star Gareth Bale after emphatic win

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Wales boss Ryan Giggs singled out Gareth Bale for praise after his players crushed Nations League opponents the Republic of Ireland.

Tom Lawrence, Bale – with his 30th goal for Wales – Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts were on target before Republic substitute Shaun Williams provided some cheer for the visitors in a 4-1 defeat at Cardiff City Stadium.

Giggs was enthused about a trademark box office display from Bale ahead of what is now likely to be an appointment with a full-strength Denmark in Aarhus on Sunday after a dispute about players’ commercial rights was resolved.

“Every time he plays, he makes a difference, whether it’s for Wales or Real Madrid,” Giggs said. “It gives everyone a lift, but he’s a great example of the level you have to get to.

“It’s a difficult match with a very good team on Sunday. We don’t know what their preparation has been like, but we expect a tough game, their best 11, and they are probably favourites in the group.

“We might have to play even better to get that result. I said to the players the bad news is you have to keep to that standard. They have to keep getting better, keep improving.”

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill had no complaints about the result after seeing a team missing a handful of regulars taken apart.

“We were well beaten in the game,” he said. “We were second best for pretty well all of the evening.

“We made more than a few mistakes. We allowed room for world-class players, and particularly Gareth Bale, to work his magic.

“He is a world-class player, and I do think it helps when you have got a world-class player at your disposal. He is capable of unlocking defences, he is capable of scoring the type of goal that he did, and he is playing for Real Madrid as well.

“We were missing some really key players tonight. Fine. This was a really tough evening for us, regardless of whether we had some players missing, and we should do better.

“It has not diminished my enthusiasm for the job one jot. We’ve a long, long way to go, and we might have one or two players back for the games in Dublin.”

The victory might not have erased the pain of Wales’ World Cup elimination last October when the Republic won 1-0 at the same venue.

But the manner of the performance, with talented youngsters Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks excelling on their first competitive starts and Bale at his brilliant best, gave a tantalising glimpse of the bright future that could lie ahead under Giggs.

“I talked about expressing themselves and trusting each other, and that’s what I got,” Giggs said.

“We could have scored more, but to get four in any game is special.

“Credit to ourselves, not many teams could have lived with us tonight. I think we’d have given anyone a game.

“The young lads came in and did well, but I feel we have got 30 players who can be in the first XI. I never had that when I played for Wales.”

Asked about 17-year-old Ampadu’s display, Giggs added: “Ethan is a talent, but not only as a player, but as a person. He is so measured and mature and takes it all in his stride. I am really pleased for him.”

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Wales player ratings as Real Madrid star Gareth Bale earns an 8 after stunning 30th goal

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Wales and the Republic of Ireland launched their campaigns in the new Nations League at Cardiff City Stadium, with Wales cruising to a 4-1 victory.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at how the players rated.

WALES

Wayne Hennessey: Rarely tested, and could watch in comfort for most of the game as Wales dominated. 6 (out of 10)

Connor Roberts: The Swansea player produced a tireless work-rate and scored a first senior goal, while time and time again running selflessly for his colleagues. 8

Chris Mepham: Fitted well into Wales’ impressive framework as they destroyed Ireland through some majestic first half football. 7

Ashley Williams: Wales’ long-serving captain marshalled his troops well, although they did not need much encouragement to play in such thrilling free-flowing fashion. 7

Ben Davies: Accomplished at the back, and fired a spectacular pass that Gareth Bale gathered without breaking stride for Wales’ memorable second goal. 7

Ethan Ampadu: The 17-year-old performed like a seasoned international, spraying out passes with sustained accuracy. Looks a natural. 9

Joe Allen: Kept things ticking over nicely as part of a Wales midfield unit that enjoyed overwhelming dominance. Calm and assured. 7

Aaron Ramsey: Scored Wales’ third goal with a smart finish after Ampadu sent him clear. Quality contribution. 7

David Brooks: Like Ampadu, he lapped up the occasion, running confidently into space and taking on Ireland’s defenders. Impressive. 7

Tom Lawrence: Dream start with high-class finish for Wales’ early opener, and it set the tone as the home side never looked back. 7

Gareth Bale: Scored his 30th Wales goal with a blistering first-half finish that once again underlined his global box-office status. 8

Substitutes

Matthew Smith (for Ampadu): The Manchester City youngster was given a chance after 66 minutes. 6

Tyler Roberts (for Bale): Entered the action with 16 minutes left, replacing the majestic Bale. 6

Paul Dummett (for Davies): Given a run for the closing stages on his first Wales appearance in almost three years. 6

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