Lens (France) (AFP) – Wales manager Chris Coleman attempted to end tit-for-tat verbal exchanges that have marked the build-up to his side’s Euro 2016 clash with neighbours England on Thursday.
Wales star Gareth Bale started the battle when he declared that England “big themselves up before they’ve done anything” and that “none” of Roy Hodgson’s players would get into Coleman’s side.
Hodgson described Bale’s initial comments as “disrespectful”. England midfielder Jack Wilshere said Wales’s dislike of England was reciprocated.
Asked if Bale’s comments had been part of a targeted campaign, Coleman told a press conference in Lens on Thursday: “Whether it was or whether it wasn’t, you’ll have to ask the players involved.
“It’s all about opinions and if that’s their opinion, that’s up to them. They’re grown men.
“It was always going to turn into this: ‘He said this, she said that.’ It’s irrelevant really, because when the whistle goes tomorrow, we’ll see who’s ready and who’s not.
“All the talk beforehand, blah blah blah, for me. I’m not into mind games. Let’s just get down to business. This is all just small talk. It doesn’t mean anything to me at all.”
Having beaten Slovakia 2-1 in their opening game, Wales will qualify for the last 16 if they beat England, who only drew 1-1 with Russia in their first match.
While the pressure appears to be on England, Wales left-back Neil Taylor said the pre-match chatter from the Welsh camp had not been a deliberate tactic.
“To say we’re trying to get under their skin would be wrong,” said the Swansea City player.
“Our intention is to play well in the game. We’re focused on us and only us.”
Stopping Bale will be key to England’s hopes of victory, the Real Madrid forward having scored with a scorching 25-metre (yard) free-kick against Slovakia in Bordeaux.
Bale, the world’s most expensive player, is the centre of attention wherever Wales go, but Coleman said that he was a straightforward player to work with.
“Balo’s easy. He’s a quiet guy, he’s a family guy, there’s no shenanigans or nonsense with him off the field,” Coleman said.
“It’s easy to coach him. With someone like him, who’s very passionate about his country, he wants to do well, so he buys into what we want to do.
“And as long as he thinks we’re doing our best to make sure we set ourselves up properly, there’s never a problem with Balo. He just wants to come, enjoy his football and enjoy playing for Wales.”
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