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‘I never knew Stoke were that good!’ – Bale’s humorous response after reporter’s question for Italy boss Mancini

20 Jun 2021 5 minutes Read
Gareth Bale. Pic: FAW

Wales captain Gareth Bale had a brilliant response to comments by Roberto Mancini after a reporter asked the Italy boss if Wales reminded him of Stoke by saying: “I never knew Stoke were that good!”

The tongue-in-cheek question was originally addressed to Mancini by a reporter at the Italy team’s press conference in Rome.

Mancini was formerly manager of Manchester City who used to play against Stoke City in the Premiership.

Then, in the subsequent Wales team press conference also in Rome, a reporter mischievously claimed it was Mancini who had drawn comparisons between Wales and Stoke – which was not the case – in order to try and get a response from Wales manager Robert Page firstly and then Wales captain Gareth Bale.

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At the conference Page simply dismissed the question and any comments by Mancini saying he had not heard them.

When Bale was asked to comment, he did so with a smile on his face.

Stoke City FC have, in fact, seven Wales players as part of their squad, including Joe Allen, Adam Davies, James Chester, Morgan Fox,  Sam Vokes, Rabbi Matondo and Rhys Norrington Davies.

There are also strong cultural and industrial links between Wales and Stoke-on-Trent dating back 180 years to a time when the area received a great influx of Welsh families to work in the quarries and mines.

This is not the first time for the Wales and Real Madrid superstar to show off his ability in fielding awkward questions from the Press.

Four years ago when he was asked by a reporter before the Euro 2016 match with England: “How many English players would make Chris Coleman’s current line-up?”, he mischeviously answered: “None!”

His great answer made all the back pages of the London-based newspapers at the time.

‘Disingenuous’

Two years ago he created a storm when he celebrated Wales’ Euro 2020 qualification by standing with his team-mates with a flag that humorously read ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid . . . in that order’

This latest matter was thankfully cleared up by BBC Wales sports reporter Dafydd Pritchard who tweeted: “The whole ‘Mancini compares Wales to Stoke’ stuff is disingenuous. Mancini actually praised Wales for their technicality as well as their physicality so, tongue-in-cheek, a reporter asked if Wales reminded him of Stoke. This is what he said:

 

Wales will today face an Italian side in great form, with Mancini’s team brushing aside both Turkey and Switzerland 3-0 in their opening two games, extending their winning run to an impressive 10 matches.

The 2006 world champions will undoubtedly be favourites in Rome, but Mancini is taking little for granted.

Gareth Bale believes Wales could benefit from a knockout Euro 2020 game at Wembley.

Wales have not yet qualified for the round of 16 knowing that victory would see them top Group A and set up a Wembley date against probably either Austria or Ukraine.

Italy will take that Wembley spot if they avoid defeat to Wales who, if they finish second in the group, will head to Amsterdam and meet the runners of Group B – most likely Denmark, Finland or Russia.

‘Fantastic’

“It would be a fantastic result for us if we were to beat Italy,” said Wales captain Bale.

“Obviously we’d win the group and I guess have a slightly easier game going into the next round.

“For the Welsh fans to come and watch us is something we’d love to do. The aim for us is to win the group and then that game would be at Wembley, which would be great for Wales fans.

“Italy play very good football, very attacking football, and don’t concede too many.

“They are a very well-equipped all-rounded team, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have weaknesses. We’ve worked on things and we definitely think there’s areas we can exploit.

“Winning always breeds confidence, that winning mentality. The win (against Turkey) gives us more confidence going into this game.”

Penalties

Bale missed from the penalty spot in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Turkey in Baku, sending his kick high over the crossbar.

But the Real Madrid forward insisted he is happy to stay on spot-kick duty, saying: “I’m happy to take penalties.

“I’m sure it’s a decision the manager has to make. If I’m asked to step up again I have no problem taking another penalty.”

Interim manager Robert Page, who revealed the prize of a Wembley visit would form part of his pre-match team talk, could make changes after naming the same starting line-ups against Switzerland and Turkey.

Influential

Chris Mepham, Ben Davies and Kieffer Moore are carrying yellow cards and would miss out on the round of 16 if they were booked again at the Stadio Olimpico.

Davies and Aaron Ramsey both missed Wales’ Euro 2016 semi-final defeat to Portugal after receiving two yellow cards in the competition.

Page said: “That’s the difficulty. We’ve been here before in 2016 with the semi-final and missed influential players.

“It’s affected them to today, so that’s going to be in the thought process. But there will be a team selected that we believe can win the game.”

Juventus midfielder Ramsey returns to Italy after pre-tournament concerns over his form and fitness.

Ramsey capped an outstanding performance against Turkey with his 17th international goal, elevating him to seventh place outright on Wales’ all-time scoring list.

“Aaron’s got nothing to prove (going back to Italy),” Page said. “But he’s really looking forward to the game.

“He’s not played for Juventus as much as he would have liked, but he’s gone to another level for me with his performances for us.”

 

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