KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Italy and Wales have progressed to the round of 16 from Group A at Euro 2020. Switzerland will also go through as one of the best third-placed teams after finishing on four points.
The Italians won by 1-0 over a Wales team who finished with 10 men after the expulsion of central defender Ethan Ampadu while Switzerland beat Turkey 3-1 in Baku. Italy finished with nine points followed by Wales and Switzerland on four apiece but the Welsh had a better goal difference.
The Italians rested many of their senior starters in Rome since they were already certain of a place in the round of 16 after winning their first matches against Turkey and the Swiss.
A 39th-minute goal from Atalanta’s Matteo Pessina, touching in a free kick from the outstanding Marco Verratti, provided them with an unbeaten 100pc record in the finals.
They have gone 30 matches unbeaten which equals an Azzurri national team record set between 1935 and 1939 under legendary World Cup-winning manager Vittorio Pozzo.
Wales, semi-finalists five years ago, battled energetically but were probably fortunate not to concede more goals.
Their priority was not to concede any more goals but they came close to suffering that when Federico Bernardeschi hit a low free kick against keeper Danny Ward’s right-hand post eight minutes after the interval.
Even worse, Ampadu was sent off in the 55th minute by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan for a reckless stamp on Bernardeschi’s ankle.
However Italy coach Roberto Mancini’s decision to use as many substitute as possible cost cohesion and penetration and helped Wales survive.
The Welsh might even have snatched a late equaliser but unmarked captain Gareth Bale hooked a volley over the bar.
Switzerland had kicked off simultaneously in Baku knowing they needed to make up five goals on Wales. They started brightly with early goals from Haris Seferovic and Xherdan Shaqiri but then began to run out of steam.
In the second half striker İrfan Can Kahveci scored Turkey’s only goal of the finals from a free kick but six minutes later Shaqiri restored the Swiss team’s two-goal lead. It was insufficient to overtake Wales but should be enough to keep coach Vladimir Petkovic’s men in the tournament.
Italy v Waltes: The quotes
Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: “We couldn’t have done better. Maybe we could have scored more goals but it was extremely hot and a very physical game, so the lads did really well. It’s important that the identity of the team remains the same even when we change three or four players. They all know what to do and the end product does not change.”
Marco Verratti, Italy midfielder: “When we say that this team is for everyone, we’re not just saying that. There are 26 of us and we’re all proud to represent our country and ready to give our best.”
Italy: Donnarumma (Sirigu 89) – Tolói, Bonucci (Acerbi 46), Bastoni, Emerson – Pessina (Castrovilli 87), Jorginho (Cristante 75), Verratti – Chiesa, Belotti, Bernardeschi (Raspadori 75).
Wales: Ward – Gunter, Rodon, Ampadu – C Roberts, Allen (Levitt 86), Morrell (Moore 60), N Williams (Davies 86) – Bale (Brooks 86), Ramsey, James (Wilson 74).
Referee: Hategan (Rom).
Switzerland v Turkey: The quotes
Vladimir Petković, Switzerland coach: “I’m very pleased. We showed as a team what we’re capable of. The team did what they needed to. I felt we produced a good performance over 90 minutes. The aim for us remains to qualify for the last 16. Now we have to wait and see.”
Şenol Güneş, Turkey coach: “We weren’t good enough throughout the tournament. The first match had such a negative effect on my players. That can happen. But those players will play for Turkey for many years and they will succeed like they have before.”
Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland midfielder: “We had to win and we played a good game. Of course there were one or two chances that we missed and maybe we could have scored one or two more goals, but it was a crucial performance from us and we’re happy with the result.”
Turkey: Uğurcan Çakır – Zeki Çelik, Merih Demiral, Çağlar Söyüncü, Mert Müldür – Cengiz Ünder (Kenan Karaman 80), Ozan Tufan (Yusuf Yazıcı 64), Kaan Ayhan (Okay Yokuşlu 64), İrfan Can Kahveci (Orkun Kökçü 80), Hakan Çalhanoğlu (Dorukhan Toköz 86) – Burak Yılmaz.
Referee: Vincic (Sna).