Ryan Giggs defended Gareth Bale’s contribution after he suffered his first defeat as Wales manager to Uruguay in the China Cup final.
Real Madrid star Bale has proved the big attraction at this four-team tournament in Nanning with his every move monitored by the media and his Chinese fan base.
But Bale had to settle for a spot in the shadows as Uruguay pair Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani lit up Uruguay’s 1-0 win.
Suarez struck the post twice before Cavani, who was subsequently named player of the tournament, marked his 100th Uruguay appearance with a 49th-minute winner.
Asked about Bale’s modest performance, Giggs said: “The pitch had a big part to play in it as it wasn’t ideal for dribbling or sticking the pass in.
“When Gareth gets the ball of course he is going to have players around him, they’re not just going to let him get it.
“They recognise the quality he’s got and make it difficult for him. But I thought he (Bale) was a threat all night.”
Wales had thrashed tournament hosts China 6-0 in their semi-final, with Bale scoring a hat-trick to become his country’s record goalscorer.
They had first-half chances, Andy King twice testing Fernando Muslera and Bale also forcing a fine save from the Uruguay goalkeeper, but there was little rhythm to their play after the break.
“Of course, against teams like that you’re going to ride your luck but they showed us the utmost respect,” Giggs said.
“We won’t play against much better teams than that in terms of experience and talent.
“It was a great learning curve for the players and a great test which I thought they stood up to.
“What I want from my team is to go to the end and I thought we did.
“Suarez and Cavani were going to the end, and we were still in the game.
“Ryan Hedges put in that fantastic cross right at the end, and on another day we’d have got someone on the end of it.”
On the tournament itself, Giggs added: “We’ve had two very different opponents and two different performances, but equally pleasing in many ways.
“I have learned there is a fantastic team spirit which I knew beforehand but then witnessing it was brilliant.
“There’s also a lot of quality in the squad, and more that’s been left at home as well.
“I’m really happy with the young lads who have come in and done well and with the squad as a whole.”
Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez said the tournament was a morale boost for the South Americans ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
“The final was a top match and the tournament was very competitive,” Tabarez said.
“We think we can even get better when we are not suffering from injuries and jet leg.”
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