Who can stop the Italians?
Gary Neville reflected on his own reluctance at halftime to call Switzerland a ‘nice’ team in their role as ITV expert, but what became increasingly evident was that he would have had to show more courage in his perception.
They came in with a good run, unbeaten in eight since last November, but still without believing they could win a big game.
Italy has never been in difficulty. Manuel Locatelli sent them back to the knockout stage at Euro 2020 after the most routine 3-0 victory you can see.
Sassuolo’s midfielder pulled off an elegant brace before Ciro Immobile secured a comfortable victory as Italy became the first team to advance to the round of 16. The biggest concern for Roberto Mancini’s side is that they could make it to the round of 16 without being tested.
Now unbeaten in 29 games in all competitions since a UEFA Nations League loss to Portugal in 2018, Mancini will aim to become the first team since Germany at Euro 2012 to record three group stage wins.
Only once in their history, they made a long course without defeat (30 matches between November 1935 and July 1939). They can match that race when Wales visit Rome on Sunday, but he is increasingly convinced that a first European Championship triumph since 1968 is within their grasp.
Wales make fans dream of 2016 repeat
Robert Page might have been nicer than he could have been about Wales’ Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland as the result they got was good, despite uneven performance.
But he had no reason to hide anything after an excellent 2-0 victory over Turkey that would have been more goals if Aaron Ramsey or Gareth Bale had buried a host of chances they both created and missed Tuesday evening.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that these two will be crucial to their success in this competition and from their first two games it looks like they’ve done enough to help them in the round of 16.
It would take a series of very cruel events for Sunday’s match in Italy to have any bearing on Wales’ qualification, but the way they won against Turkey – reminiscent of a similar group stage victory against Russia five years ago – means Page, his team and their fans may wonder if a repeat of the performance might be a possibility.
Wales might not be able to pull another Belgium result out of the hat – although finishing third would potentially give them the opportunity to do so – but if they finish second in Group A it is likely that the One from Russia or Finland awaits them in the last -16, two eminently beatable teams.
“I thought I showed a good character to help the team continue,” Bale told the BBC after bouncing off a penalty kick in the second half to prepare for Connor Roberts’ second goal in the last minute.
If he and his teammates maintain that level of personality, there’s every chance there will be another famous summer on the cards across the River Severn.