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Gareth Bale rejects Italy coach Roberto Mancini's assessment that Wales resemble Stoke City

·14-min read
Wales captain Gareth Bale - Euro 2020: Build-up to Wales' crunch match against Italy in Rome - live news - REUTERS
Wales captain Gareth Bale - Euro 2020: Build-up to Wales' crunch match against Italy in Rome - live news - REUTERS

Wales captain Gareth Bale dismissed Italy coach Roberto Mancini's comments likening the team to English club Stoke City and said they were ready to challenge them in today's Euro 2020 meeting in Rome.

Mancini, who spent three and a half years as Manchester City manager between 2009 and 2013, is fully aware of the physical demands of a trip to Stoke who were a top-flight team then.

Ahead of today's game, the Italian said Stoke had a very tough style of play and he expected a similar test from Wales, adding Bale's side also possessed the technical skills to trouble his team.

Asked for his reaction to Mancini's comments, Bale told a news conference: "I never knew Stoke were that good."

Wales interim manager Robert Page said that he was not bothered by the comparison.

"We're fully focused on what we can do and how we can hurt teams. As I've said, I couldn't be more proud of that (squad of) 26 and I'll back them every day of the week."

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Italy are through to the last 16 after two wins from as many games, while Wales are also unbeaten in Group A with four points ahead of the final round of matches.

"It's going to be a big challenge. We have no doubt, even if that (unbeaten) record wasn't there, Italy are a big footballing nation and always make games difficult," Bale said.

"We're under no illusions, it's going to be a difficult game, but all we can do is plan, prepare and give it our all when we get on the pitch.

"... It's difficult to say where the game would rank if we won but it would for sure be a proud moment for all of us. A great result for Wales and one we're going to try and do."

Reuters

01:56 PM

Bye for now

Our coverage of the Italy vs Wales blog, with Alan Tyers, has begun at this link, so it's time for me to say goodbye.

I hope tonight is a cracker in Rome.

01:24 PM

Rome atmosphere building nicely...

Fans gather for Italy v Wales - Rome, Italy- June 20, 2021 Italy fans pose ahead of the match  - REUTERS
Fans gather for Italy v Wales - Rome, Italy- June 20, 2021 Italy fans pose ahead of the match - REUTERS
Fans gather for Italy v Wales - Rome, Italy- June 20, 2021 Fan with an Italy flag painted on his face before the match - REUTERS
Fans gather for Italy v Wales - Rome, Italy- June 20, 2021 Fan with an Italy flag painted on his face before the match - REUTERS

12:56 PM

Main talking points ahead of Italy vs Wales

Wembley prize

The winners of Group A will go to Wembley to play the runners-up of Group C, most likely Austria or Ukraine. The incentive for Wales would be to play in front of a 40,000 crowd and thousands of their own supporters after most stayed at home for the 3,000-mile trip to Azerbaijan amid coronavirus restrictions. The runners-up will head to Amsterdam to meet the runners-up of Group B, probably Denmark, Finland or Russia. Italy have already qualified for the knockout stage. Defeat could see Wales overtaken by Switzerland for second spot and leave them sweating on being one of the four best third-placed teams to make the last 16.

Changes on the cards

Both teams will probably make changes with half an eye on the knockout stage. But how far can the two coaches, Roberto Mancini and Robert Page, go as not to disrupt the momentum gained over the first two games? Italy are already without injured captain Giorgio Chiellini and hope midfielder Marco Verratti is fit enough to make his first appearance of the tournament. Wales have Ben Davies, Chris Mepham and Kieffer Moore on yellow cards and there may be starting opportunities for Ethan Ampadu, Neco Williams and David Brooks.

Ramsey return

Juventus' Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey returns to Italy no doubt determined to prove a point. Ramsey has had some good moments in Turin since leaving Arsenal two summers ago, but too often he has been on the bench or on the sidelines frustrated by injury. The transfer gossip columns have been full of suggestions Ramsey will leave Italy after Euro 2020 and head back to the Premier League. But he showed in Wales' 2-0 win over Turkey in Baku - where he scored his 17th international goal - that he remains a considerable asset to any team.

Aaron Ramsey - GETTY IMAGES
Aaron Ramsey - GETTY IMAGES

Italy look the real deal

Italy stand one game from equalling their all-time unbeaten run of 30 matches, a record set between 1935 and 1939. The Azzurri have not lost since September 2018 and have scored 80 goals in winning 24 and drawing five of their last 29 games. Mancini's Italy have looked real contenders to become European champions for the first time since 1968. Bolstered by ageless central defenders Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, Italy play a fluid 4-3-3 with a dynamic midfield, full-backs who get high up the pitch, and wide attackers in close contact with the central striker.

Italy hold upper hand in past meetings

Italy have dominated a fixture first played in 1965, winning seven of the nine games and losing two. The Azzurri won the first three matches by an aggregate scoreline of 9-2 before Wales claimed their only victory on Italian soil in 1988. Ian Rush, who was playing for Juventus at the time, scored in a 1-0 friendly win in Brescia. Italy won the next three meetings by an aggregate 9-0 margin before Simon Davies and Craig Bellamy were on target in a 2-1 Wales win in October 2002. Italy exacted revenge for that Euro 2004 qualifying defeat 11 months later by winning 4-0 in Milan.

PA

12:33 PM

Oh, stop it Thierry...

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12:10 PM

October 16 2002...

...was the last time Wales beat Italy. It was a Euro 2004 qualifier in Cardiff. Craig Bellamy scored the winner that sent the Welsh into raptures.

What Rob Page would give for similar scenes in Rome today; the first time Italy and Wales will meet at a major tournament.

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11:39 AM

Stoke vs Italy coming up later...

Wales captain Gareth Bale dismissed Italy coach Roberto Mancini's comments likening the team to English club Stoke City and said they were ready to challenge them in today's Euro 2020 meeting in Rome.

Mancini, who spent three and a half years as Manchester City manager between 2009 and 2013, is fully aware of the physical demands of a trip to Stoke who were a top-flight team then.

Ahead of today's game, the Italian said Stoke had a very tough style of play and he expected a similar test from Wales, adding Bale's side also possessed the technical skills to trouble his team.

Asked for his reaction to Mancini's comments, Bale told a news conference: "I never knew Stoke were that good."

Wales interim manager Robert Page said that he was not bothered by the comparison.

"We're fully focused on what we can do and how we can hurt teams. As I've said, I couldn't be more proud of that (squad of) 26 and I'll back them every day of the week."

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Italy are through to the last 16 after two wins from as many games, while Wales are also unbeaten in Group A with four points ahead of the final round of matches.

"It's going to be a big challenge. We have no doubt, even if that (unbeaten) record wasn't there, Italy are a big footballing nation and always make games difficult," Bale said.

"We're under no illusions, it's going to be a difficult game, but all we can do is plan, prepare and give it our all when we get on the pitch.

"... It's difficult to say where the game would rank if we won but it would for sure be a proud moment for all of us. A great result for Wales and one we're going to try and do."

Reuters

11:36 AM

The case for Sancho

Jeremy Wilson argues the Dortmund man needs to make an appearance for England...

England’s star striker is lacking goals.

England’s next best assist-maker from last season has not yet left the bench.

This simple fact does not mean that Jadon Sancho is guaranteed to single-handedly reignite Harry Kane but, in a team that has yet to find its creative spark, there are some very obvious attacking options staring Gareth Southgate straight in the face.

Sancho finished the Bundlesiga season with eight goals and 11 assists. Only Kane among the England starters on Friday either created or contributed more.

The most frustrating characteristic of England’s one-paced goalless draw against Scotland on Friday night was a tendency to pass the ball sideways and prioritise keeping possession above taking a risk.

That left Kane constantly drifting back towards the midfield in an attempt to show for the ball rather than gambling on running into the attacking areas where he carries the greatest threat.

Sancho with a frisbee at England training - REUTERS
Sancho with a frisbee at England training - REUTERS

A tactical tweak is needed and the good news for Southgate is that he has alternatives who are not dissimilar in style to Son-Heung Min, with whom Kane has forged such an outstanding partnership. Sancho is also quick, direct and skilful. And he has a point to prove.

Marcus Rashford is another who could potentially invigorate Kane and Southgate should now use the Czech Republic match to see, in the full glare of a tournament, who is ready to seize the opportunity. This does not even necessarily have to come at the expense of his other more creative midfielders and there is also a case for asking Phil Foden or Mason Mount to play in a deeper midfield role alongside Declan Rice.

Sancho, though, was in excellent form in crucial matches as the Bundesliga season ended last season. It all adds up to a compelling case at a moment in the tournament when England are crying out for a different attacking balance.

10:43 AM

Impressive Germany

Our Chief Sports Writer, Oliver Brown, was mightily impressed by Germany last night, with Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich singled out for particular praise.

Robin Gosens of Germany celebrates with Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos after scoring their side's fourth goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group F match between Portugal and Germany at Football Arena Munich on June 19, 2021 in Munich - GETTY IMAGES
Robin Gosens of Germany celebrates with Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos after scoring their side's fourth goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group F match between Portugal and Germany at Football Arena Munich on June 19, 2021 in Munich - GETTY IMAGES

You can read his thoughts on the match here.

10:02 AM

England

England defender Kieran Trippier will face the media at today's 3pm press conference.

Do you think we will see him start against Czech Republic? He looked good against Croatia but then did not feature against Scotland...

09:42 AM

Ahem...

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09:16 AM

Belgium's Thorgan Hazard ruled out of Finland game

Belgium midfielder Thorgan Hazard will not travel with the team to St. Petersburg for their European Championship Group B match against Finland on Monday, the team said on Sunday.

Hazard scored in Belgium's 2-1 win over Denmark on Thursday, their second victory in as many games in the tournament, but the Borussia Dortmund midfielder appeared to pick up a knee injury.

Local media reports said he did not train on Saturday.

Belgium said in a tweet on Sunday that Hazard will not be part of the squad for their final group stage clash, without stating the reason for the 28-year-old's exclusion.

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Reuters

08:57 AM

Stunning

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08:44 AM

Yesterday's headlines

To recap:

Today's fixtures:

  • Italy vs Wales, 5pm BST

  • Switzerland vs Turkey, 5pm BST

08:27 AM

Wales

Qualification will be in touching distance, but how many heads would turn if efficient Wales were to storm Rome today and beat the glitz of Italy to top their group?

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08:15 AM

The morning after the night before

For the Big Morning Read on this mizzly Sunday, I present to you Thom Gibbs' ode to Germany's win over Portugal, and why it was the best game of the tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo - SHUTTERSTOCK
Cristiano Ronaldo - SHUTTERSTOCK

You can read that here.

07:49 AM

Spain's woes

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Robert Lewandowski kept Poland's Euro 2020 hopes alive last night as Spain were left to rue a missed penalty.

Catch up on all the match action here.

07:39 AM

Good morning!

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's coverage of today's Euro 2020 news, where we will bring you all the live reaction to Spain and France's draws, Germany's superb win over Portugal, and all the build-up to Wales' crunch match in Rome.

Germany coach Joachim Low has insisted that outclassing defending champions Portugal 4-2 should not be viewed as sending a message to their rivals.

They looked a different side from the one which lost to France and Low said they never lost belief in themselves after that defeat which had raised serious questions about their ability to contend at Euro 2020.

Having gone behind to Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliant 100-yard counter-attack Germany hit back by forcing own goals from Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro before Kai Havertz and man-of-the-match Robin Gosens doubled their lead, with Diogo Jota grabbing a consolation.

Victory threw Group F wide open with France on four points and Germany and Portugal on three, with Hungary not yet out of it after their draw with the world champions earlier in the day.

Low, who leaves his job next month after 15 years in the post, insists their focus is just on the next game against Hungary.

"It doesn't have anything to do with initiating something," he said when asked what the result meant for their tournament.

"It gives you some satisfaction but we never had any doubts after losing to the world champions, we knew we could do better.

"At a tournament you know how it goes, step by step. The next step will be Hungary, which will be hard as they park the bus in defence.

"Overall it was a strong performance against a technically good Portuguese team who were strong on the counter-attack.

"Especially after going behind we showed a great team spirit, we didn't lose control, we were dynamic and energetic, created a lot of opportunities.

"We managed to be a threat to the defence and overall this victory is well deserved."

PA

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