Gareth Bale, Wales and the Most Memorable 'One-Man Team' International Sides

Sam Pilger@sampilgerContributing Football WriterNovember 13, 2014

Gareth Bale, Wales and the Most Memorable 'One-Man Team' International Sides

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Welsh hopes of reaching Euro 2016 and qualifying for their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup rest squarely on the shoulders of Gareth Bale

    As Wales prepare to face Belgium on Sunday night they sit on top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group unbeaten after three games. 

    The world's most expensive player is Wales's inspiration and most important player, leading to them being labelled as a one-man team. 

    Here I list five international teams from both today and history, who came to be dominated by a single player.

Diego Maradona

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    Carlo Fumagalli/Associated Press

    It has always seemed overly harsh to judge the Argentina side that won the 1986 World Cup as a one-man team.

    But the truth is they would never have triumphed in Mexico without a certain Diego Armando Maradona. 

    It has long been the trump card for those that argue Maradona is a greater player than Pele to state that he virtually won the World Cup on his own in 1986. 

    After one goal in his first four games in Mexico, Maradona came alive in the later stages, scoring twice in a 2-1 win against England in the quarter-finals, and twice again against Belgium in a 2-0 semi-final win.

    In the 3-2 win over West Germany in the final he didn’t score, but Maradona inspired all of those around him and dominated this side. This was his victory.

Gareth Bale

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    When Wales need a spark of inspiration they turn to Gareth Bale.

    In September when they were trailing to Andorra, it was Bale who saved them from embarrassment when he equalised before also finding a late winner with a stunning free-kick.

    It is source of great pride Wales can boast the world’s most expensive footballer; the Real Madrid man stands out as a beacon in a squad that also consists of players from Reading, Charlton, Fulham, Wolves and Dundee.

    If Wales are going to make it to Euro 2016, they will need Bale to be at his very best throughout the rest of their qualifying campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Portugal might have been underwhelming at the World Cup this summer, but if it wasn’t for Cristiano Ronaldo they would not have even made it to Brazil.

    The Real Madrid attacker is his country’s leading all-time goalscorer with a total of 51 goals, four of which came in Portugal’s 4-2 aggregate win over two legs in the World Cup play-off against Sweden last autumn.

    His hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-2 win in the second leg in Stockholm will forever serve as the perfect showcase for his incredible talent and also the enormous influence he had on his country.

Eusebio

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    Nearly a quarter century ago, and long before the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal heavily relied on another great of the game: Eusebio.

    The striker almost single-handedly made sure Portugal qualified for their first-ever World Cup final in 1966 when he scored seven of their nine goals in six qualifying games. 

    He was only getting warmed up, for at the tournament in England he scored a further nine goals to be that World Cup’s leading scorer as Portugal reached the semi-finals.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Jend Dresling/Associated Press

    Over the last 13 years Sweden have boasted many fine players, but no one to compete with the unique Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    Since making his debut in 2001, Ibrahimovic has become central to Sweden’s ambitions, and their leading all-time scorer with 50 goals from 100 appearances. 

    In 2012, he scored all four goals in Sweden’s 4-2 friendly win over England, and a year later he added three goals in another 4-2 win against Norway.

    The Paris Saint-Germain striker was Sweden’s leading scorer in their unsuccessful attempt to reach this year’s World Cup with a total of eight goals in the qualifying campaign.

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