Euro 2020: Roberto Mancini says Wales are tough like Stoke City

Mancini, who spent three-and-a-half years at Manchester City, feels Wales are "a powerful side like Stoke" as they both face each other in the final group match.

Roberto Mancini in a file photo; Credit: Twitter@azzurri
By Karthik Raman | Jun 20, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Italy coach Roberto Mancini has made a strange comparison, saying Wales are tough like Stoke City ahead of the two teams’ final group match in Euro 2020 on Sunday. Mancini spent three-and-a-half years as Manchester City manager between 2009 and 2013. Even the heavyweights in the Premier League struggled to compete against a physical side like Stoke in that period. “Stoke had a very tough style of play, they were a very tough nut to crack,” Mancini told a news conference.

“It will be a very difficult match from a physical perspective because they are a powerful side like Stoke, but they are also very technical… Wales have players like (Joe) Allen, (Gareth) Bale and (Daniel) James. They have got some quality and skilful players.”

Italy have not put a foot wrong so far in this tournament, producing two 3-0 victories from two group games. As a result, the Azzurri have won 10 matches in a row, all without conceding. They are also one game away from matching their longest unbeaten streak of 30 games, which they set between 1935 and 1939. They need just a point to secure the top spot in Group A.

“France, Spain, Germany and Portugal are used to winning, they are full of extraordinary players,” he said. “France remain the favourite despite the draw with Hungary. Then there will also be Belgium. In my opinion, nothing changes (on various potential winners).”

Mancini asserted that he would rotate some players on Sunday with a place in the last 16 already clinched. Owing to a knee injury, Marco Verratti has not yet played in the tournament but is in contention for some game time against Wales.

“Tomorrow night will be our third game and we would have rotated regardless, even if this was a must-win fixture,” he said. “A third game in the space of 10 days with 30-degree heat, you need fresh legs out there. Marco needs to play. Until today, after so many days of training, he is fine.”

Gareth Bale aiming to beat Italy

Wales have not yet qualified for the round of 16, but they play Italy in Rome on Sunday. A win would see them top Group A and set up a next-round clash in Wembley.

“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.”

Bale was full of praise for the Italians and called them a “well-equipped” team. “Italy play very good football, very attacking football, and don’t concede too many,” he added.

“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 are areas we can exploit.”

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