As Wales look to consolidate second place in Group B – or potentially top it – Garth Bale is one free-kick away from breaking a record that he currently shares with greats like Zidane, Platini and Hassler. If the pony-tailed boyo manages another against Russia this will be the first time that someone has scored a sort of hat-trick at the continent’s showpiece tournament.
Kozacik had little chance of stopping Bale’s opening game strike but Hart will be disappointed not to have pushed the long-distance effort to safety in the second. It’s the experienced Russian, Akinfeev, with 105 caps, that will be looking to avoid his name being in the record books alongside that of the Welshman tonight.
When asked about his technique Bale knew where the answer lay.
"I put a lot of practice in. Even now after training I'm there for an extra 10 or 15 minutes hitting balls, and doing what I normally do when I'm at Madrid and when I was at Tottenham. Nothing changes -- I just carry on my routine."
The forward was also clear when asked if he takes any tips from Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo: "No, not really. I do it my way. I like my own style.
"We obviously practice together in training but on different sides. It depends where I am on the pitch and what side. I hit it slightly different depending where the ball is and how close you are. You always stand over them and think 'please just go in,' but it's not always the case. So it's nice to see the hard work pay off and see two go in so far.'
More power = more fun
As most analysts have commented, it’s not as if Bale has used a trademarked technique for his free-kicks recently and the option to add more power, rather than bend, is in his arsenal. The player stated that this was partly due to it being more fun.
"I used to curl them before but I started a different technique because I found it more exciting. I found the curl a bit boring, I'm not going to lie. This style of free kick is more exciting. It can go 50 yards over the bar, but then it can look even better when it goes in.”
Something that is sometimes forgotten when it comes to dead ball situations are the non-player factors. The weather, the pitch and of course the ball. Bale notes the effect very positively.
“The ball is definitely different from the LaLiga ball or the Premier League ball and when you do hit this one nicely it does move a lot. So you do feel for the keepers a bit, but it's good for us."
We’re all familiar with the psychological games played out between penalty taker and goalkeeper. Give him the eyes, put it to his wrong side, stick with what’s worked before. But what about set plays further out? Well, Bale admits that he had a gameplan for Joe Hart too.
"With the free kick I scored in the first game I knew the goalkeeper was going to gamble, and that's why I went that way. But we did our research and I knew Joe's not going to gamble if I have a free kick. He can't afford to because if it goes in on the keeper's side they really do get the blame. So I was always going to go over the wall because I knew he wasn't going to gamble."