Wales showed great resolve in the defeat against Italy as they held on with ten men for a result that was enough to secure their place in the second round of Euro 2020.
Their automatic qualifiers were in danger of Switzerland beating Turkey 3-1 in another Group A match. But Wales withstood Italy’s relentless pressure to secure second place with a goal difference.
Italy was already ready for the last 16 and, despite making eight changes to their squad. They were still in full dominance. In addition, Matteo Pessina‘s goal gave them a 1-0 lead which scarcely reflected their superiority.
And even though Italy’s victory was never in doubt. This was their 30th consecutive game without a defeat, equal to their national record. Wales dug deep to ensure the victory limit didn’t hurt too much.
Finishing off third may be enough for Wales to progress as one of the top four teams in third place in the competition. But this result ensures that their future is in their hands.
Robert Page and his players can now look forward to the second leg of their Group B match in Amsterdam next Saturday.
As for Italy, 11 wins in a row will see them face the second-placed team of Group C at Wembley on the same day.
Wales’ anxious anticipation.
This turned out to be a more stressful afternoon than Wales thought in Rome.
Last Wednesday, their victory over Turkey put them in a relegation zone, knowing that defeat would not stop their progress. But they were needed to draw to make sure.
There was also a change in formation as Wales changed to 3-4-3. Where three backs became very much a back five in their long seasons without possession against an impressive Italy side.
Since the start of the game, the Azzurri have been in charge, controlling the ball. And squeezing Wales into their midfield with what seemed like game-time.
Page’s side was living in a dangerous situation, with Italian shots on the side or in the hands of Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward before their luck ended. When Pessina quickly entered Marco Verratti’s kick.
There were plenty of other chances, but, like a boxer beaten and threatened to hit one step, Wales got their chances with Chris Gunter looking the other way, and Gareth Bale badly cleared the bar with a left-footed volley.
Snatching a draw at the Stadio Olimpico would have been a huge blow. But those who missed out have shown academic gratitude for Ward’s goalkeeping and bloody defense in front of him.
Italy marks their tournament credentials.
A third victory in three group games underlined Italy’s credentials as potential Euro 2020 champions.
As four-time world champions and former winners of the competition, they are often among the favorites. But this team is different.
Italian football is traditionally associated with strong defensiveness, ingenuity coupled with occasional criticism to win small victories. Prior to this summer, they had never scored more than two goals in a single European Championship match.
At Euro 2020, however, they won both of their opening matches against Turkey and Switzerland 3-0, playing a new panache.
Manager Roberto Mancini has made eight changes but, some of them are memorable, including Paris St-Germain midfielder Verratti and Italy’s leading scorer in qualifying Andrea Belotti. This was a tough line-up.
Their goal came from the association of two of their most memorable players Verratti who assists Pessina, has shown deep Italian power.
Such was the authority of their display. There was never any doubt that they would make them win 11 in a row. And it was rare that there were times when they seemed to concede the first goal for more than 1,000 minutes.
A 2-0 defeat will match these defeats in Rome in Bosnia and Herzegovina the night Wales qualified for Euro 2016 as the best defeat in Wales football history.